Why NFPA 5000 is Not the Solution
by Pete Billing
It’s a symbiotic relationship: building code bodies rely on construction industry standards as guidelines and standards in their best form meet or exceed installation and performance criteria. Building codes not only are vital to the health and welfare of the door, window and skylight industry, but they help manufacturers stay on track with technology, while allowing designers, specifiers, builders and consumers access to some of the best products on the market.
Properly executed, standard compliance is a mark of excellence and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) takes a proactive approach in influencing code entities across the country by promoting the benefits of voluntary standard and certification programs. WDMA also believes that there should be one recognized building code, the International Building Code (IBC), which is why this issue warrants continued industry attention.
Last year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) drafted a building code. While WDMA promotes and participates actively in the development of NFPA fire door standards, this most recent effort on behalf of NFPA, the NFPA 5000 Building Code, 2002 Edition, does not appear in the best interests of the industry.
Criteria Needs Updating
Much of the referenced testing standards regarding windows, doors and skylights from WDMA, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and others are outdated and the most current documents are not available. There are also inconsistencies and items missing in NFPA 5000. For example, there are no criteria or referenced air and water infiltration requirements. In addition, the standards listed for determining the air infiltration rate are more than a decade old. Also, water intrusion limitations are noticeably absent. (A proposal submitted to NFPA to require limits on water penetration to NFPA 5000 was rejected.) A void also exists on the subject of total window performance, other than energy efficiency.
In addition, the performance criteria for testing in accordance with the integrated standard, ANSI/ AAMA/WDMA 101/I.S. 2, the Voluntary Performance Specification for Windows, Skylights and Glass Doors, is not referenced. Other missing items are load-requirement specifications for skylights, as well as code language requiring windborne debris protection, such as impact-resistant windows for certain specified wind regions, as consistent with the IBC.
NFPA 5000 also lacks substance for door specification and performance. In fact, there is no reference to industry standards for wood doors. The only standards relating to doors are NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Fire Windows and NFPA 252, Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies.
Supporting a Unified Code
WDMA continues to monitor the situation but did not attempt to correct all the inadequacies because the task was monumental. Instead, we have moved forward and voted to actively support the adoption of the IBC by all jurisdictions. WDMA believes there should be one recognized building code, rather than two separate codes that utilize different formats and virtually leave the door open to unnecessary confusion in the construction industry.
WDMA promotes the concept of integrated standards for windows, doors and skylights—a one-stop reference and compliance guide. The North American Fenestration Standard is an example of those efforts. The entire industry benefits once integrated standards are recognized and approved by code bodies. For consumers, the bottom line is a better product overall.
The public comment period for NFPA 5000 has concluded. The next step is to await the report on comments, which contains the committees’ final actions. The committees’ actions will then be voted on by the NFPA general membership at its annual meeting in May.
Pete Billing serves as a codes consultant for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. Billing is based in Sarasota, Fla.
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