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Structural review for temporary structures

Safety & Codes | December 1, 2012 | By:

By Edward J. Kaminski

Q: When is a structural review required for temporary structures?

A:The answer in the next edition of the International Fire Code (IFC) may be: “all the time.”

Currently some building departments will not accept structural reviews for buildings or structures that are erected for less than 180 days. This situation creates a void in the code enforcement community since the widely adopted IFC does not explicitly require structural reviews for all tents or membrane structures. The 2012 IFC includes the following language:

> 3103.9 Anchorage required: Tents or membrane structures and their appurtenances shall be adequately roped, braced and anchored to withstand the elements of weather and prevent against collapsing. Documentation of structural stability shall be furnished to the fire code official on request.

Room for interpretation

The code language appears to have been written with roped tents in mind and leaves room for interpretation. It is up to the fire code official to request the structural review since the code does not elaborate on the required structural loads.

In the absence of building department permits, some fire departments require permit applicants to provide a structural analysis that is prepared by a licensed structural engineer. Most pre-fabricated structures have been evaluated for structural stability; however, the local official may require that the analysis be done by an engineer who holds a license in the state where the structure is going to be erected. Engaging a locally licensed structural engineer can be an unexpected expense. To ensure that the construction is executed per the approved plans, a third-party quality assurance agency may be required to fulfill the role of a structural building code inspector.

Proposed revisions

Proposed revisions to the IFC for the 2015 edition, if accepted, would require structural reviews in accordance
with Chapter 16 of the International Building Code. The proposed code language includes the following:

> 3103.9.2 Structural design.s Tents and membrane structures shall be designed and constructed to comply with Chapter 16 of the International Building Code when any of the following conditions occur:

  1. the occupant load of the tent or membrane structure exceeds 100,
  2. the tent or membrane structure is classified as a Group A, E, I or R occupancy, or
  3. the tent or membrane structure exceeds one story.

> 3103.9.3 Documentation. Documentation of structural stability shall be furnished to the fire code official on request.

Weigh in

This and all other IFC change proposals will be publicly heard at the 2013 Code Development Hearing in Dallas, Texas, April 21–28. The International Code Council is accepting code change proposals for the IFC until Jan. 3, 2013. The Final Action Hearings will take place in fall 2013.

By Edward J. Kaminski, P.E., Clark County Fire Department, Las Vegas, Nev.

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