An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

hand of a technical director marking up a plan against building code

The Importance of Engaging Fire/Life Safety Consultants Early On


Code Consulting

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Specialty consultants, including fire/life safety code consultants, are often not hired for new developments until the Schematic Design or Design Development phases. This delay in receiving expert advice can reduce the significant benefits fire/life safety consultants bring to the table. 



Construction type and building separation strategies might be selected incorrectly, resulting in wrong construction cost estimates. Alternatively, if not all code permitted options and exceptions are considered, the design can lead to unnecessarily high cost estimates.

Similarly, the basic means of egress strategy needs to be set correctly and optimally, early in the design process. Does the design include the minimum required number of exit stair enclosures? Can the number of exit stair enclosures be reduced by creative code applications, such as the use of horizontal exits and open exit access stairways? Revising the construction type and building separation strategy or changing the backbone of the means of egress system after Schematic Design can be costly and disruptive. 

Keeping a fire/life safety code consultant engaged throughout all design phases is critical – both for maintaining the optimal code compliance strategy and implementing the provisions of any negotiated code alternates. By partnering early with a fire/life safety consultant, an ideal balance between fire/life safety, cost, aesthetics and design flexibility can be achieved. Unexpected and often unpleasant surprises can be avoided during plan check and field inspections. 

Holmes refers to both the International Building Code and codes governing local jurisdictions.

Senior staff Geza Szakats and Brian Salyers examine a project against code.

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