Massive Raleigh fire not a factor at building code meeting

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Though the Metropolitan fire provoked several questions about wood-framed construction of multi-story apartments, the fire wasn't on Tuesday's agenda.

The state's top builders and firefighters made clear on Tuesday they see no need yet to address a massive downtown Raleigh fire in the next edition of the North Carolina building codes.

In its first meeting since the March blaze that burned down Metropolitan Apartments, the North Carolina Building Code Council (NCBCC) covered a wide range of issues related to the 2018 edition of the codes, but the downtown fire was not on the agenda.

"Codes are designed for life safety systems and they're designed so when the building is complete and fully occupied that it's safe for people," council chairman Dan Tingen told ABC11. "The code is not addressing buildings such as [Metropolita Apartments] that was that's under construction."

Based on the International Code Council's industry standards, the North Carolina Building Code governs everything from building materials, design, accessibility, electric wiring and fire protections. The NCBCC meets four times a year, and works to update the codes every six years.

Though the Metropolitan fire provoked several questions about wood-framed construction of multi-story apartments, the fire wasn't even on Tuesday's agenda.

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"You think look at how catastrophic the fire was and you think someone must do something here," Tingen said. "But what do you do for a building under construction? That's the whole thing. It's not an occupiable building that hasn't met the proper inspections. Once it has and you have that kind of catastrophe - now you've got a serious question."

Chatham County fire chief Thomas Bender, who serves as chairman of the NC Fire Marshals Association, agreed with Tingen that the fire code as written fulfilled its purpose in the downtown fire in that no one died.

He added that what's inside the building when occupied is also key to preventing fires - but not nearly as important as fire education.

"We often hear the fire was caused by cooking or was caused by candle, Chief Bender explained. "The candle didn't cause the fire and the cooking didn't cause the fire - unattended cooking caused the fire and a candle left unattended caused the fire."

In Tuesday's lengthy meeting, the NCBCC did address future changes to the code on energy consumption and design protocol. Committee members told ABC11 the changes in technology have been the biggest difference since the last code edition was printed in 2012.

"I think there's just a common sense understanding that your building needs to be energy efficient," Tingen added. "It's because of the effect on the environment and the effect on the pocketbook."

To review North Carolina's current codes, visit https://www.iccsafe.org/codes-tech-support/codes/state-and-local-codes/2012-north-carolina-building-codes-now-in-effect/

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