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Code revision update, and what you can contribute

Business | April 1, 2019 | By:

TRD code committee sets its sights on new ASTM standard.

With the current code revision cycle for tents and temporary structures largely complete, IFAI’s Tent Rental Division (TRD) code committee is continuing in its efforts to establish an industry standard for tent anchorage. 

Members of the International Code Council (ICC) voted on code revision proposals for the 2021 Model Code following a public comment hearing in October.

“Most of the proposals that were put forth that TRD considered to be negative for the industry, the ones that we really did not want to pass, did not pass,” says code committee chair Alex Renaud, international sales manager for Fiesta Tents Ltd., Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada. “Some of the proposals that we presented as counterproposals did not pass either, but what that means is that most of the code stays status quo, which is a better result than the new proposals that were put forth.”

A TRD code revision proposal addressing wind load and documentation requirements was disapproved. 

“We got a lot of good feedback from the audience and certainly from the committee as well,” says TRD code consultant Paul Armstrong, P.E., C.B.O. “They’re looking for a much more prescriptive type of standard for the layout of these particular temporary structures.”

Passing with modifications was a proposal that clarifies fabric label language with regard to date of treatment of older fabric and testing and certification to NFPA 701 for modern vinyl.

The code committee is continuing to work toward an ASTM standard for anchoring tents. Once approved by ASTM, the standard could be submitted as a code change proposal in a future code revision cycle.

Renaud describes a potential standard for tent anchoring as a scale that requires increasing levels of documentation and engineering as the size of tent and the occupancy increases. A subcommittee is working on writing language for the standard with guidance from Armstrong.

“When you write a proposal like that, every little piece of language is important, so that you don’t create a new issue by making a mistake in the way you write the language,” Renaud says. “ASTM scrutinizes that quite intensely until you come up with an actual standard that they feel is written properly and covers all the aspects they consider necessary for that type of standard.”

A TRD-funded study at Clemson University on anchorage for non-engineered tents is also ongoing. Calculations are done, Renaud says, and researchers are working toward putting the results together in a user-friendly module. 

What you can do

During a code conversation session at Tent Expo 2019 in Orlando, Fla., in January, Renaud, Armstrong, and IFAI director of events and member programs Linden Wicklund outlined several steps TRD members can take to support TRD in the code revision process and to promote better relationships with local code officials.

  • Keep the code committee informed of new interpretations of the code in your area. “If it seems like it’s coming out of left field, then we as a committee want to be informed so that we can support that member and find out why the authorities are not accepting what they have as documentation and see if there’s any work that needs to be done as far as the code in their area,” Renaud says.
  • Get to know your local building code officials and fire marshals. “Call your local fire marshal, invite him into your shop or to an event, have him walk around the site and explain to him why you do the things you do the way you do them,” Renaud says. “Ask what concerns he has and start developing that relationship bit by bit.”
  • Ask if you can attend an association meeting of your local officials. “If you can go in and either present issues related to tents or engage in a conversation with them, that’s another great way to get to know more than one building code official or fire marshal,” Armstrong says.
  • Provide officials with a checklist of things to look for when evaluating a tent installation. Fire marshals sometimes struggle with approving tent installations because, while they are experts in areas such as egress and exits, they aren’t familiar with the structural aspects of tents, Armstrong says. “They don’t see [temporary structures] on a regular basis,” he says. “What you want to do is make sure that they understand the issues as much as possible.”
  • Volunteer with the TRD code committee. This could include attending ICC hearings. Code revision proposals often don’t pass on their first hearing, Armstrong says. The key is building a network with the other groups that attend the hearings. “The committee members only have so much time to really get a good sense of how a code change should go,” he says. “It’s the support that you gather, the team that you build, really in the back of the room, that makes a world of difference.”
  • Help your local officials get free access to TRD resources. Contact division supervisor Andrea Jauli at or call +1 651 225 6944 for more information.
  • Ask IFAI to set up a TRD boot camp in your area. “And then you invite all the fire marshals and building officials that you work with to attend,” Renaud says. “Be proactive about making them feel safe about who they’re working with.” 

The International Code Council (ICC) uses a three-year cycle to develop model codes. Tents and temporary structures fall under the International Fire Code (IFC). For the current code cycle, which will result in the 2021 Model Code, the IFC is in Group A. Code revisions for Group A were submitted and voted on in 2018. Group B proposals were due to be published in March (after the deadline for this issue). TRD will review the Group B proposals in case a proposal would affect tents and temporary structures.

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