Codes & Standards - California Building Code, Chapter 7A
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The code language can be found on the California Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) website. From this link you can also download a copy of the WUI Products Handbook. This document is published by OSFM and includes a listing of some of the products that comply with the provisions of Chapter 7A.
Chapter 7A was implemented in two phases:
Phase 1 has been in effect since December 1, 2005 and applies to roof coverings and attic vents. Phase 2 has been in effect in all State Responsibility Areas (SRA) since January 1, 2008. Local Responsibility Areas (LRA) followed on July 1, 2008. Phase 2 applied to the following components:
- Exterior siding
- Exterior wall vents
- Exterior doors
- Decking surfaces
- Floor projections
The delay in implementation for Phase 2 components was to allow for manufacturers to test and modify (if necessary) their products, and to move these products to market. Chapter 7A applies to new buildings – either residential or non-residential (commercial).
The code acknowledges the importance of well-maintained near home landscaping vegetation to a fire safe building by requiring compliance with Public Resource Code 4291 (applying to SRA) and Government Code 51182 (applying to LRA). The code language is in section 701A.3.2.4. It states “Prior to building permit final approval, the property shall be in compliance with the vegetation clearance requirements prescribed in PRC 4291 and GC 51182”.
The Fire Hazard Severity Zone (FHSZ) maps that are used to implement Chapter 7A can be found here. Chapter 7A is applicable in all FHSZs in the SRA, and the “very high” zones in the LRA.
- SRA – areas where fire protection is provided by the state, either directly by CAL FIRE, or under contract. SRA is normally in unincorporated parts of a county. The Fire Hazard Severity Zones in SRA have been classified into one of three zones --- Very High, High, or Moderate. ‘Low’ doesn’t exist.
- LRA – areas where fire protection is provided by the ‘City of …’ LRA areas not rated as ‘urban’ (e.g., downtown Oakland, downtown Los Angeles) have also been mapped into the three Fire Hazard Severity Zones (Very High, High, or Moderate).
Chapter 7A is only applicable in Very High FHSZs. The resolution of these maps will make it difficult to locate a specific parcel. Some counties may offer the ability to search by parcel or address. This ‘look up’ feature isn’t available at the state level.
As indicated, Chapter 7A addresses the building in terms of components. There are always between two and four ways for a given component to comply with the code. Each method for complying is separated by ‘or’ , meaning that you can select any one of the methods. These methods consist of prescriptive and performance options. Prescriptive options are ones where you are told something will work (i.e., insulating-glass units with a minimum of one tempered pane).
As an example, the wording for windows is given in this slide. Performance options are ones where a given product has to pass a specific test before it can be used (e.g., option 4 in this slide, ‘conform to the performance requirements of SFM 12-7A-2 …’). Once the product has been tested in an approved fire laboratory, it can be used.
An example of a prescriptive method of complying is the first option (insulating-glass unit with a minimum of one tempered pane). Most, if not all, window manufacturers comply using this option. No testing is necessary. Note that any window frame material is also ok.
More code compliance information is given in this website on the pages discussing the specific component.
There are a few ways that building officials and other building and design professionals can determine which products comply with Chapter 7A. These options are shown in this slide.Most producers are using the OSFM published Wildland Urban Interface Product Handbook Products to show compliance. Use of the OSFM Building Materials Listing (BML) program is voluntary, and it won’t likely be used by many manufacturers to show that their product(s) comply with the Chapter 7A provisions. Both of these options require that a test report, from an approved fire laboratory, be submitted to OSFM for review. The BML process results in a ‘listing’ for the product, labeling, and certain requirements for inspection. Products included in the WUI Product Handbook do not currently need to meet all the requirements necessary for ‘listing’.
Only products that comply via a performance requirement are included in the OSFM Handbook. Products that comply prescriptively aren’t included.
Details of the ICC-ES Report [International Code Council – Evaluation Services] and UL (Underwriters Laboratory) Labeling will be given in subsequent slides.
The manufacturer always has the option to take their test report directly to the local building official for review and approval.
The ICC-ES report can be a lengthy report that provides a lot of information on properties and other test results.
To facilitate the Chapter 7A / California Building Code process, ICC-ES services will, when requested by the producer of a product that has an ES Report, review the ES report and prepare a separate, shorter, document that provides information exclusively on Chapter 7A related product information.
As an example, we will use the ES report shown in this slide. In this case, the report for the producer of a fiber cement product is 35 pages long. This product complies with the provisions of Chapter 7A by being noncombustible (as a siding and soffit material). ICC-ES will pull out that sentence and prepare a one page attachment. If you are only interested in Chapter 7A issues, you can skip over the entire report, and refer only to the ‘Chapter 7A attachment.’
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) has also developed a certification program for Chapter 7A products. To-date, only manufacturers of decking have requested this service. UL maintains an UL Online Certification Directory. As was the case with OSFM and the WUI Product Handbook, both ICC-ES and UL charge a fee to the manufacturer for their service.
The WUI Products Handbook is published on-line by OSFM as a pdf document. It is updated regularly. A fee must be paid to OSFM to have a product included in this handbook. Manufacturers are not required to include their compliant products in this, or any, publication. However, this is an easy way to show compliance. Manufacturers wishing to have their product included in this book must have their product tested at an OSFM approved fire laboratory. The test report, prepared by the fire laboratory, must be submitted to OSFM for review and approval.
Only products that pass a performance-based test will be considered for inclusion in this document. A product that complies via a prescriptive means cannot be included in the document, even though the product complies completely with the provisions of the code. For example, windows with an insulating glass unit, with at least one of the two panes in the dual pane windows, fully complies with the code, but since this is a prescriptive way to comply, this product cannot be included in the handbook. In order to be included, a window must either pass the 20-minute vertical furnace test, or SFM 12-7A-2.