Impact of 2006 International Building Code on Facilities Design

Published 9-11-2007
  • Housing Specialized Equipment

    Core labs differ from support labs in that they accommodate highly specialized spaces with sensitive equipment, including imaging facilities, biocontainment labs, cleanrooms, nano and micro-fabrication facilities, vivaria, and hazardous materials storage rooms. Shown is an electron microscopy core lab.

    Photo courtesy of David Bendet, HOK.

The International Building Code (IBC), developed in the late 1990s by the International Code Council (ICC) and updated on a three-year cycle, is the most widely adopted building code in the country. Codes provide protection from tragedy caused by fire, structural collapse, and general deterioration. The ICC states that model codes keep construction costs down by establishing uniformity in the construction industry.

The goal of the ICC’s development process in creating the new code was to have it open to all parties with safeguards to avoid domination by proprietary interests. Players involved in the development process include code officials, design professionals, trade associations, builders and contractors, manufacturers and suppliers, government agencies, and other individuals with a vested interest. Enforcement will be the responsibility of individual states and primarily local jurisdictions, counties, and cities.

In January 2008, the IBC will introduce new requirements regarding allowable hazardous materials quantities, egress, fire ratings, occupancies, ventilation requirements, emergency power, emergency response, and allowable building height to name a few. The changes will primarily impact hazardous materials management and fire rating requirements.

HOK is designing all of its current projects that will be submitted for permit after January 1, 2008 under the requirements of the new IBC.

“We are meeting with the building departments and fire marshals in the jurisdiction of these projects to gain general concurrence on the direction we are taking with respect to code implementation since the IBC amendments are not yet finalized by these local jurisdictions,” says David Bendet, vice president and director of the Science and Technology Group for Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum in San Francisco.

“There will be a significant impact to projects required to follow the IBC, although renovations may be able to follow current building code requirements with the approval of the regulatory agency having jurisdiction over each project,” he continues.

HOK is advising clients to evaluate new strategies to minimize the use of hazardous materials, such as green chemistry and just-in-time delivery, and is recommending solutions for storage and distribution based on the new requirements. Unlike the earlier Universal Building Code (UBC) that defined maximum limits of hazardous materials within each of four allowable areas, the IBC significantly limits the amount of hazardous materials above the third floor in a Business (B)-Occupancy Lab.

“We are trying to balance the desire to have research labs on top floors for access to rooftop ventilation equipment versus the need to have these same labs located on the bottom floors to maximize allowable hazardous materials use,” says Bendet.

On the East Coast, many jurisdictions are adopting the recommendations of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) which allows for manifolding of fume hood exhausts within control areas, but does not give relief to the control area definition or the restrictions on hazardous materials storage above the third floor. In California, the new IBC Laboratory (L)-Occupancy allows a significantly higher limit for hazardous materials above the third floor, but this comes at a price. Following are highlights of the additional design safety measures that are required in an L-Occupancy:

Allowable Height and Building Areas—In Type 1-A Construction, L-Occupancies cannot be located above the 10th floor. The height limit can be increased to 11 stories if the building has a sprinkler system.

Horizontal Exits—Buildings containing Group L Occupancies located four or more floors above the first floor shall have each floor of the building separated with at least one horizontal exit. Each side of the horizontal exit shall be provided with a separate mechanical exhaust system without interconnection, as well as separate elevator access.

Access to Exits—In addition to the current requirement that all rooms 200 sf or more have two separate exits, L-Occupancies require that all portions of any room must also be within 100 feet of an exit, such as a stairway.

Ventilation—Exhaust ducts from each laboratory suite must be separately ducted to a point outside the building, to a mechanical space, or to a shaft. Connection to a common duct may occur at those points. Exhaust ducts within the same laboratory suite may be combined within that laboratory suite.

Emergency Power—An emergency power system must be provided to all required electrical equipment. The exhaust system may be designed to operate at not less than one half the normal fan speed.


Project Data