Assemblywoman MARIA RODRIGUEZ-GREGG
District 8 (Atlantic, Burlington and Camden)
Assemblyman JOSEPH A. LAGANA
District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)
Prohibits use of light frame construction in certain municipalities; establishes fire safety protocols for light frame construction projects.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning fire safety issues in light frame construction, supplementing and amending P.L.1975, c.217, and amending P.L.1991, c.188.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. (New section) a. (1) The use of light frame construction for multiple dwellings shall not be permitted in municipalities with a population density of more than 5,000 persons per square mile, according to the latest federal decennial census.
(2) In municipalities with a population density of less than 5,000 persons per square mile, according to the latest federal decennial census, a multiple dwelling may be constructed utilizing light frame construction only if:
(a) the multiple dwelling does not exceed three stories in height;
(b) vertical fire barriers, extending from the top of the foundation through the roof and constructed of noncombustible materials with a minimum two-hour burn rating, are installed between walls separating dwelling units in the same structure and walls separating dwelling units from other occupied areas contiguous to them in the same structure;
(c) horizontal fire barriers with a minimum two-hour burn rating are installed between floors separating dwelling units in the same structure; and
(d) an automatic sprinkler system is installed throughout the structure in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13.
b. A construction project involving a multiple dwelling that utilizes light frame construction shall not proceed unless a fire watch guard is present 24 hours a day to monitor the construction project and alert firefighters, medical, rescue, or law enforcement personnel if a fire or other emergency occurs. A fire watch guard shall be present throughout the construction project and shall continue to monitor the multiple dwelling for 48 hours following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. A fire watch guard shall maintain a record of activities performed in connection with the construction project that serve as a potential threat to fire safety. The records shall be submitted to the Division of Fire Safety in the department on a weekly basis and the division may, in its discretion, take action appropriate to abate any fire safety issues, including, but not limited to, requesting that the local construction code official revoke the construction permit for the project.
(1) An applicant shall be eligible to be a fire watch guard if the applicant is qualified pursuant to N.J.S.40A:14-9.
(2) A fire watch guard shall make regular inspections of the structure and shall patrol the structure or the areas of the structure assigned to the fire watch guard for supervision by the developer or owner of a multiple dwelling. The developer or owner of a multiple dwelling shall not assign a fire watch guard any additional responsibilities that would interfere or conflict with the fire watch guard's responsibilities under this section.
(3) A developer or owner of a multiple dwelling shall submit to the Division of Fire Safety in the department, the applicant's name, address, fingerprints, and written consent for a criminal history record background check to be performed. The division shall exchange fingerprint data with and receive criminal history record information from the State Bureau of Identification in the Division of State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation consistent with applicable State and federal laws, rules, and regulations.
(4) A developer or owner of a multiple dwelling utilizing fire watch guards to provide 24 hour a day monitoring pursuant to this subsection shall be responsible for hiring and compensating the fire watch guards. The Division of Fire Safety in the department may assess a developer or owner of a multiple dwelling, utilizing a fire watch guard pursuant to this subsection, reasonable administrative fees incurred by the division in performing its duties as set forth in this subsection.
c. The commissioner may adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), a light frame construction subcode, or may propose amendments to revise the appropriate model code adopted pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-123), for the purpose of establishing adequate and appropriate standards for multiple dwellings designed utilizing light frame construction.
2. Section 3 of P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-121) is amended to read as follows:
3. Definitions. As used in [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.):
"Building" means a structure enclosed with exterior walls or fire walls, built, erected and framed of component structural parts, designed for the housing, shelter, enclosure and support of individuals, animals or property of any kind.
"Business day" means any day of the year, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
"Certificate of occupancy" means the certificate provided for in section 15 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.), indicating that the construction authorized by the construction permit has been completed in accordance with the construction permit, the State Uniform Construction Code and any ordinance implementing said code.
"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Community Affairs.
"Code" means the State Uniform Construction Code.
"Commercial farm building" means any building located on a commercial farm which produces not less than $2,500 worth of agricultural or horticultural products annually, which building's main use or intended use is related to the production of agricultural or horticultural products produced on that farm. A building shall not be regarded as a commercial farm building if more than 1,200 square feet of its floor space is used for purposes other than its main use. A greenhouse constructed in conjunction with the odor control bio-filter of a solid waste or sludge composting facility, which greenhouse produces not less than $2,500 worth of agricultural or horticultural products in addition to its function as a cover for the bio-filter, shall be considered a commercial farm building for the purposes of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.), provided, however, that the greenhouse is not intended for human occupancy.
"Construction" means the construction, erection, reconstruction, alteration, conversion, demolition, removal, repair or equipping of buildings or structures.
"Construction board of appeals" means the board provided for in section 9 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.).
"Department" means the Department of Community Affairs.
"Enforcing agency" means the municipal construction official and subcode officials provided for in section 8 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.) and assistants thereto.
"Equipment" means plumbing, heating, electrical, ventilating, air conditioning, refrigerating and fire prevention equipment, and elevators, dumbwaiters, escalators, boilers, pressure vessels and other mechanical facilities or installations.
"Fire barrier" means a continuous assembly, with a minimum two-hour fire resistance rating, and made of noncombustible materials, such as concrete or masonry.
"Fire watch guard" means an individual hired to monitor construction projects involving multiple dwellings that utilize light frame construction.
"Hearing examiner" means a person appointed by the commissioner to conduct hearings, summarize evidence, and make findings of fact. "Maintenance" means the replacement or mending of existing work with equivalent materials or the provision of additional work or material for the purpose of the safety, healthfulness, and upkeep of the structure and the adherence to such other standards of upkeep as are required in the interest of public safety, health and welfare.
"Light frame construction" means any method of construction utilizing metal-plate-connected wood trusses, metal-plate-connected metal-web wood trusses, pin-end connected steel-web wood trusses, wooden I-joists, steel bar joists, solid-sawn wood joists, composite wood joists as floor or roof system structural elements, or load bearing elements made of combustible materials, including fire retardant treated wood.
"Manufactured home" or "mobile home" means a unit of housing which:
(1) Consists of one or more transportable sections which are substantially constructed off site and, if more than one section, are joined together on site;
(2) Is built on a permanent chassis;
(3) Is designed to be used, when connected to utilities, as a dwelling on a permanent or nonpermanent foundation; and
(4) Is manufactured in accordance with the standards promulgated for a manufactured home by the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development pursuant to the "National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974," Pub.L.93-383 (42 U.S.C. s.5401 et seq.) and the standards promulgated by the commissioner pursuant to P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.).
"Multiple dwelling" means the same as that term is defined pursuant to subsection (k) of section 3 of P.L.1967, c.76 (C.55:13A-3).
"Municipality" means any city, borough, town, township or village.
"Outdoor advertising sign" means a sign required to be permitted pursuant to P.L.1991. c.413 (C.27:5-5 et seq.).
"Owner" means the owner or owners in fee of the property or a lesser estate therein, a mortgagee or vendee in possession, an assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee, lessee, or any other person, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly in control of a building, structure, or real property and shall include any subdivision thereof of the State.
"Premanufactured system" means an assembly of materials or products that is intended to comprise all or part of a building or structure and that is assembled off site by a repetitive process under circumstances intended to insure uniformity of quality and material content.
"Public school facility" means any building, or any part thereof, of a school, under college grade, owned and operated by a local, regional, or county school district.
"State sponsored code change proposal" means any proposed amendment or code change adopted by the commissioner in accordance with subsection c. of section 5 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.) for the purpose of presenting such proposed amendment or code change at any of the periodic code change hearings held by the National Model Code Adoption Agencies, the codes of which have been adopted as subcodes under [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.).
"Stop construction order" means the order provided for in section 14 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.).
"State Uniform Construction Code" means the code provided for in section 5 of [this act] P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.), or any portion thereof, and any modification of or amendment thereto.
"Structure" means a combination of materials to form a construction for occupancy, use, or ornamentation, whether installed on, above, or below the surface of a parcel of land; provided the word "structure" shall be construed when used herein as though followed by the words "or part or parts thereof and all equipment therein" unless the context clearly requires a different meaning.
(cf: P.L.2004, c.42, s.9)
3. Section 1 of P.L.1991, c.188 (C.52:27D-198.4) is amended to read as follows:
1. a. The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall, pursuant to the authority under the "Uniform Fire Safety Act," P.L.1983, c.383 (C.52:27D-192 et seq.), promulgate rules and regulations to require that an identifying emblem be affixed to [the front] each exterior entrance of structures [with] utilizing light frame construction or truss construction to clearly communicate that the combustible structure in the affected area is known to the State to pose a fire hazard.
(1) The emblem shall be of a bright and reflective color, or made of reflective material. The emblem shall contain the following language:
WARNING: This structure is build with light frame construction known to the State of New Jersey to pose a fire risk to occupants.
(2) The size of the emblem shall be no smaller than 12 inches horizontally by 10 inches vertically and shall bear the warning message set forth in paragraph (1) of this subsection. [The shape of the emblem shall be an isosceles triangle and the size shall be 12 inches horizontally by 6 inches vertically.] The following letters, of a size and color to make them conspicuous, shall be printed on the emblem: "F" to signify a floor with light frame or truss construction; "R" to signify a roof with light frame or truss construction; or "F/R" to signify both a floor and roof with light frame or truss construction.
(3) The emblem shall be permanently affixed to the left of [the main] each entrance door at a height between four to six feet above the ground and shall be installed and maintained by the owner of the building.
[The act] (4) This section shall be enforced in accordance with enforcement procedures set forth in P.L.1983, c.383 (C.52:27D-192 et seq.).
b. Detached one and two family residential structures with light frame or truss construction which are not part of a planned real estate development shall be exempt from the provisions of this [act] section; however, the governing body of a municipality may require by ordinance that emblems be affixed on structures with light frame or truss construction.
Individual structures and dwelling units with light frame or truss construction which are part of a planned real estate development as defined in section 3 of P.L.1977, c.419 (C.45:22A-23) shall [not be required to] have an identifying emblem [if there is] in addition to an emblem affixed at each entranceway to the development.
(cf: P.L.1991, c.188, s.1)
4. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would prohibit the use of light frame construction for multiple dwellings in municipalities with a population density of more than 5,000 persons per square mile, according to the latest federal decennial census. In municipalities with a population density of less than 5,000 persons per square mile, a multiple dwelling may be constructed utilizing light frame construction only if: (1) the multiple dwelling is less than three stories in height; (2) vertical fire barriers made of noncombustible materials with a minimum two-hour burn rating are installed between walls separating dwelling units in the same building and walls separating dwelling units from other occupied areas contiguous to them in the same building; (3) horizontal fire barriers made of noncombustible materials with a minimum two-hour burn rating are installed between floors separating dwelling units; and (4) an automatic sprinkler system is installed throughout the structure, in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13. The vertical fire barriers required under this bill must extend from the top of the building's foundation through the roof.
In addition, this bill would require owners and developers of multiple dwellings utilizing light frame construction to hire a fire watch guard to provide 24 hour a day monitoring of construction projects on light frame buildings. A fire watch guard must be present from the time the construction project begins until 48 hours after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. In the event of a fire or other emergency, the fire watch guard must alert local first responders. The fire watch guard must also report fire safety issues to the Division of Fire Safety in the Department of Community Affairs, which may request that the local construction code official revoke construction permits for projects posing fire safety risks. The Division of Fire Safety may assess owners and developers of multiple dwellings utilizing light frame construction reasonable fees to cover the costs incurred by the division for carrying out its responsibilities pursuant to this bill.
Finally, the bill requires that an identifying emblem be affixed to each entrance of a structure with light frame or truss construction to warn firefighters and the general public of the existence of light frame truss-type construction in the structure. Under current law, an identifying emblem must be affixed to the front entrance of structures utilizing light frame or truss construction only.
This bill is in response to the five-alarm fire that destroyed a 408-unit apartment building in Edgewater, New Jersey on January 21, 2015. The incident highlighted the extreme speed with which light frame construction, such as that used in the apartment complex that burned, can reach its failure point when exposed to fire. The fire chief in Edgewater blamed the wood construction and truss-style roof for the fire's rapid spread. Although the Edgewater fire caused no human fatalities, a sudden structural collapse caused by lightweight construction that quickly fails in a fire could have devastating results for residents and first responders.