This story is a continuation from What If You Didn’t Have A Fire Protection Engineer? If you haven’t read it, we suggest you find out how an AHJ’s code interpretation could have a costly impact on a new building project. In part II of this series, ”What If You Did Have A Fire Protection Engineer?”, we find out Harrington Group saved a client unnecessary costs and made the AHJ comfortable with the alternative fire safety solution we provided.

It was clear to us that the AHJ was very dedicated and wanted to make absolutely sure that he was doing the right thing. He’s not a fire protection expert, he was just trying to make sure the state laws were being followed and everyone in the building would be safe.

At the same time, he was being pressured by others to work toward a solution as this project was very important to the community.  It was therefore our view that the appropriate next step was to provide him with the right information that would prove that our preferred protection approach would be equivalent or superior to his interpretation of the prescriptive code requirements, and to give him the peace of mind that if he agreed with this position, he would be making the right decision approving this equivalency instead of treating it as a code variance request which would require us to go before the jurisdiction’s Board of Appeals.

We provided him a copy of a performance-based analysis for a very similar building that had been previously prepared by our performance-based design expert that proved that the building occupants could safely exit the building with the increased travel distance and without smoke and heat venting.

Upon reading the report, the AHJ became completely comfortable with our solution and he embraced our approach as being equivalent/superior to his interpretation of the code’s requirement.

He stated that it was the most comprehensive and well written fire protection engineering analysis he had reviewed. Within a 10 day period, the AHJ switched his position from “you must go to a board of appeals,” to complete approval. Successful negotiations with an AHJ normally result in a win-win situation; our client will get what they need and the AHJ will be completely satisfied that their decision to accept is the right one. If provided with a sound detailed analysis, the AHJ, as in the case above, can become an advocate of the proposed solution.

Where Stakeholders Go Wrong

Building owners, developers, Architects, and project team engineers often do not bring in a fire protection engineer early in the design/building process. Experienced fire protection engineers can quickly understand the AHJ’s perspectives and offer alternative and equivalent solutions that will clear the path for project approval.

If you are having problems resolving an issue with an AHJ or would like to prevent potential fire protection complications in your building process, feel free to contact us any time.

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