Newsletter March 10, 2004


  • Effective Compartmentation and Firestopping Message at Chicago High Rise Safety Discussions
  • CSI Show Call for Volunteers
  • FCIA Education and Committee Action Conference Info

FCIA's Education and Committee Action Conference, April 28 - 30, 2004 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, promises to be another blockbuster. Dr. Gene Corley, Lead Investigator on the World Trade Center Collapse, presents "Lessons Learned" from the study. The National Association of State Fire Marshals will provide views on their "Partnership for Safer Buildings". And, FCIA and IFC will discuss what each of us can do to promote the benefits of Effective Compartmentation and Firestopping in our industry. Details are on the website.

FCIA Committee Meetings - Did you ever wonder how the FCIA Manual of Practice was written, FM 4991 Approval for Firestop Contractors, ASTM E 2174 Standard for the Inspection of Installed Through Penetration Firestop Systems came about? FCIA Members, like you, came together and got it done. Join a committee and make a difference in the industry.

Promoting the Specialty Firestop Contractor Concept and Firestopping as a Trade - FCIA continues to promote FCIA's Specialty Firestop Contractors as firms who are passionate about fire and life safety through their business. Effective Compartmentation and Firestopping does add value to fire and life safety in buildings. FCIA Members bring a quality understanding to this effort through FM 4991 Approval. FCIA's Trade Show Booth has been at 4 shows so far. In March/April, it's going to 3 more shows. Call the FCIA Office to reserve the booth for your show.

CSI Show Call for help - FCIA's Marketing Committee is promoting the Specialty Firestop Contractor Concept through Industry Trade Shows. On April 21, 22 and 23, 2004, FCIA will display at The CSI Show in Chicago (www.csinet.org). We'll need volunteers to help us at the booth. Reply to this email, or call the FCIA office if you are interested in meeting specification writers and architects from Chicago and around the country.

Chicago Board of Realtors and BOMA Testimony - Chicago, like many cities, is reviewing it's high rise building safety ordinances, and has proposed a mandate for sprinklers. During recent testimony, FCIA heard statements from employees and consultants from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Association (NIFSA) that adding sprinklers to Chicago's pre-1975 high rise residential and office buildings is the single best thing that can be done to provide fire and life safety to the built environment. There have been several consultants testify on behalf of NSFA and NIFSA , numerous radio commercials and newspaper editorials purporting that "Sprinklers are the only option to stop fire and smoke spread in Chicago's high rise buildings".

Since the early 1900's, Chicago has been a world leader in high rise construction and fire safety. Recent World Trade Center collapse research papers cite Chicago's stringent high rise codes from 1967 (and before) that used fire resistance rated construction and effective compartmentation as the primary line of defense in buildings. Today, testimony was heard from the Board of Realtors and BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association, that Effective Compartmentation using Firestopping, should be enacted before mandating sprinklers in high rise buildings.

The Committee, and some of Chicago's alderman agreed that compartmentation already exists and is an important building fire and life safety feature that equals sprinklers and alarms. The Chair, Alderman Bernard Stone, said he remembered "during the 1974 High Rise Safety Ordinance hearings a high ranking Chicago Fire Official citing Compartmentation offerred greater protection than sprinklers". Further, he felt that "Compartmentation has limited the effect of high rise fires by minimizing the spread of fire in buildings. Compartmentation has been extremely important to Chicago". Significant discussion ensued about the safety evaluation scoring system for buildings in Chicago. The Committee will be reviewing this piece of building safety.

FCIA agrees with the Realtors, BOMA, and the alderman that Compartmentation is a big piece in Fire Protection in high rise buildings. The right answer to this safety question is that the "TRIAD" of fire protection makes sense. Testimony from the Realtors and BOMA included criticism of the NIFSA and NFSA's promotion of a sprinkler mandate and misleading total cost of sprinkler system installation. Sprinkler installations were quoted at $1.50 - $4.50/SF for a typical high rise condo building. BOMA's estimates have been $10.00 -$15.00/SF not including asbestos removal, which may be up to $18.00/SF in older buildings. Sprinklers would breach the many compartments designed into these buildings, adding cost as well. Additionally, the Realtors and BOMA questioned sprinklers reliability statistics and sprinkler product recalls as well. The group argued the NFSA's 50 year useful life statement for sprinklers, with the onset of microbial corrosion (MIC), general corrosion, plus installation, testing and maintenance issues, doesn't add up. Bottom line was that the Realtors and BOMA agreed that sprinklers were an important safety feature. However, Smoke Control, Compartmentation, Fireproofing all increase the Margin of Safety in buildings significantly and are already designed into older buildings.

FCIA believes that Firestopping should be done first in older buildings that were built with compartmentation to take full advantage of this fire protection feature. Then, alarm and detection systems may be installed, with sprinklers as can be afforded by residents and office building owners and managers to complete the TRIAD. Financial incentives from Chicago and the US Governments for these improvements to fire and life safety should include Firestopping, and not just be focused on sprinkler, detection or alarm systems as it may be the least expensive option. And, Firestopping and Smoke Protection is a good value for building owners at between $.50-$3.00/SF.

Chicago's hearings are important for not just the Midwest, but the world's high rise structures. Nationally and worldwide, major cities look to Chicago for High Rise Building Safety benchmarks. Aldermen at these hearings were thinking national as well. They were aware of testimony results of plenum cable ordinances in New York that had occurred the day before. The result is that as Chicago goes, so goes the country with fire and life safety in high rise buildings. Bill McHugh, FCIA Executive Director represented FCIA at these important hearings.

Advertisements - Advertise your firm on FCIA's Website, or in the E-Newsletter. Visit the FCIA Website to learn more.

New FCIA Members - FCIA Welcomes new Voting Contractor Members, J-Kaulk Firestopping, Jeff Kauzlarich, Capital Insulation, Dave Procida; Associate Members Brichem, Inc., Jack Seeney and Allied Telephone & Data Corp., John Shirk,

FCIA Member News - Renee Woodruff, F. Rodgers Insulation Interiors, Inc., was recently named "Employee of the Year" for her firm. Congratulations Renee! FCIA is pleased to publish member milestones. Email Bill McHugh with news.

Firestopping and Smoke Protection Industry Value - Regardless of our role in the firestopping industry, providing Systems Installation Services and Maintenance, selling Firestop Products or Design / Inspection Services, providing value, recognized by the purchaser is key to our success. FCIA and Firestopping - Smoke Protection is being recognized more than it had in 1995 through specifications asking for FCIA Members, FM 4991 Approved Contractors and ASTM E 2174 Inspection. Purchasers of our Firestopping Process are beginning to ask for these qualifications. These specification requirements mean specifiers, engineers, purchasers, and eventually building owners, "will receive what they paid for" in Effective Compartmentation and Firestopping. Although we constantly hear in our industry "all they want is the low price, regardless of quality", the percentage of time that a general contractor and owner recognize the true value of Effective Compartmentation and Firestopping is increasing. FCIA's aim is for the value of fire and life safety provided to be recognized faster through education and promotion of the Specialty Firestop Contractor Concept and Firestop Trade Development.

Bill McHugh, FCIA Executive Director

"Good merchandise finds a ready buyer." PLATUS, c.200 B.C.

(c) Copyright FCIA 03/10/04 Permission is hereby granted to forward, print, circulate, quote with credit to FCIA.

FCIA is a non profit, volunteer organization of Firestop Contractors, Contractor Branch Offices, Manufacturers and Associate Members interested in furthering life safety through the Professional Specialty Firestop Contractor concept, (knowledge, value, expertise).

For more information, contact the

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Bill McHugh, Executive Director
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Wheaton, IL 60187

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