A tire manufacturing company with a distribution facility located in the State of Texas recently contacted Harrington Group for code consulting assistance to address concerns raised by the city’s fire department. The fire department believed the facility had several noncompliant features relative to the current building and fire codes.  The fire department’s report cited deficiencies in the design and function of the mechanical smoke and heat ventilation system, in the number and configuration of exit doors, and in the design of sprinkler protection for the high piled storage of rubber tires.  The city could not locate complete documentation concerning the original building’s construction permit and certificate of occupancy.  As a result, the city was classifying the use of the facility for high piled storage of rubber tires as a new use that would have to comply with the current building and fire codes.

The client estimated that complying with the city’s current code requirements would result in costs exceeding $1 million. As an alternative to investing such a large amount of capital dollars to upgrade this facility, the client was seriously contemplating relocating the entire operation to a new facility, considering this action to be a better business investment overall. Before making that decision, they contacted Harrington Group to see if we could find a path forward that would allow them to stay in their current facility while still satisfying the fire department.

Our fire protection engineers conducted detailed fire hazard and risk assessments and an analysis of the existing smoke and heat ventilation system. We were able to justify that the official code of record for the facility consisted of the fire prevention code and building code that were in effect when the building was originally constructed, and that the original occupancy was high piled storage.  This enabled us to support the position that the existing smoke and heat ventilation system could remain without any modifications. We determined that the curtain boards did not need to be demolished as the fire department originally considered and established that new exhaust fans were not required over the entire field of roof, as was originally being considered based upon the 2006 IFC.  In addition, the power feed to the fans did not need to be modified.

Harrington Group provided a very quick response to the needs of the client. We were able to get up to speed on the large quantity of preceding correspondence between the client and the fire department and keep the project moving forward to fully satisfy the time requirements of both the client and the fire department. Our code consulting assistance saved the client approximately $1.8 million and helped to avoid the expense and disruption associated with having to move this entire operation to a replacement facility.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.