On January 1, 2017 the State of California will mandate that the 2016 California Fire Code go into effect. During the six-month period preceding this date, local jurisdictions have an opportunity to prepare amendments to the code that reflect local conditions.
The Sonoma County Fire Chiefs (the “Fire Chiefs”) directed a committee of fire and building officials to provide local amendments that could be adopted by the cities or fire districts within the County. A majority of fire officials representing Sonoma County cities participated on the committee. The Fire Chiefs saw a need for local amendments to provide County wide consistent regulations to the construction industry by alleviating obstacles for development. The Healdsburg Fire Marshal and Building Official further amended the code realizing the unique characteristics of Healdsburg’s older residential and downtown commercial buildings.
The State of California will mandate that the 2016 California Fire Code go into effect January 1, 2017. The City of Healdsburg prepared amendments and additions to the codes to reflect local conditions through the Health & Safety Code Sections 17958.5 and 17958.7. Staff has made recommended findings to add, delete and amend specific portions of the mandated code due to local climatic, geological and topographical conditions in order to mitigate the potential damage caused by earthquakes, flooding, erosion, and fires.
The local amendments provide regional consistency with regards to the administrative portions of the codes and fire sprinkler installations. The proposed fire code amendments have very few changes from the previous code adoption and the most significant change is the amendment of the following sections: (The amended code is shown in Italics.)
ALTERATION OF FLOOR AREA. For the purpose of this definition, the following criteria shall be considered in determining the percentage of “alteration of floor area.” The 50% referred to under “Substantial Remodel” applies to the entire building’s gross floor area in plan view. The entire room or space where the remodel is taking place will be considered in the calculation, either alone or in combination with any of the following:
1. Removing wall finishes and exposing framing of;
a. Interior wall (where finishes are removed from one side only the room or space to which the framing is exposed will be included in the calculation).
b. Perimeter exterior wall (one or both sides).
2. New wall construction, removing, or repositioning, either interior or perimeter exterior walls, the rooms or spaces on both sides of the wall will be included in the calculation.
3. Removal of the ceiling in any room or space to expose rafters trusses, beams, purlins, or floor joists. The floor joists must be within a floor/ceiling assembly.
4. Removal of the roof structure (only rooms or spaces that are directly below the removed roof structure will be included in the calculation).
5. In the non-residential portion of multi-tenant buildings, individual tenant space improvements in which the space is reduced to a “shell” condition, shall require that the future tenant improvement comply with these fire sprinkler requirements.
6. Other alterations considered substantial by the Fire Code Official (see DSA-AC definition of “Alteration” in the 2016 California Building Code).
Items 7, 8, and 9, are not to be included in the alteration of floor area calculation:
7. Partial removal of wall finishes necessary for repair due to flooding.
8. Removal of floor finishes which exposes floor framing and/or the removal of concrete slab, unless part of a floor/ceiling assembly.
9. Relocating plumbing fixtures in bathrooms and/or kitchen.
SUBSTANTIAL REMODEL. In all existing buildings or structures, any alteration of floor area that is greater than fifty percent (50%) of the existing gross floor area or meets the definition of a substantial improvement as defined by the California Building Code. (see ALTERATION OF FLOOR AREA).
FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS
903.6.1 Substantial remodel. An automatic sprinkler system shall be provided throughout all buildings that undergo a substantial remodel or substantial improvement.
1. Detached Group U occupancies 1000 sq. ft. or less.
2. Agricultural buildings and private riding arenas as approved by the fire or building code official.
3. Detached pool houses up to 1000 sq. ft. in floor area within 50 feet of the pool and limited to a single bathroom.
4. Detached non-combustible motor vehicle fuel dispensing canopies classified as a Group M occupancy.
5. Detached Car Ports of non-combustible construction with no habitable space above.
6. Alterations or additions made solely for the purpose of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or as contained in CBC exception # 4 of Section 11B-204.2.
7. Partial removal of wall or floor finishes necessary for repair due to flooding.
8. Whenever there are practical difficulties involved the Fire Code Official shall have the authority to grant modifications in individual cases provided the modifications do not lessen the health, life and fire safety requirements as permitted in Section 104.8.
The current regulation does not effectively address major remodels, providing appropriate fire and life safety improvements for conditions that exist in Healdsburg, and has not been consistent with other cities and jurisdictions within the County. The occupants of these major remodeled buildings benefit from upgraded plumbing, electrical, ADA compliance, new architectural design, but do not benefit from fire and life safety systems.
The Building Official and Fire Marshal have worked closely on these projects as not to be over burdensome while meeting the intent of the code. The One-Stop process has also been instrumental in helping applicants with early notifications of sprinkler requirements.
Two of the eight exceptions to this amendment include alterations or additions made to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, and alterations and repairs from flood damage. Finally whenever there are practical difficulties involved, the fire code official has the authority to grant modifications in individual cases provided the modifications do not lessen the health, life and fire safety requirements. The proposed fire code amendment is posted on the City website news with facts about sprinklers to provide education on the costs, insurance and benefits of sprinkler systems.