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Each May, the International Code Council (ICC) celebrates Building Safety Month to raise awareness about the importance of building codes in establishing and ensuring the safety of the built environment. Now in its 44th year, 2024’s “Mission Possible” theme encouraged people to get involved in all aspects of building safety.

The campaign included five weekly topics:

  • Building Safety, building codes
    (Credit: Adobe Stock / Summer Paradive)

    Understanding the Mission: An introduction of building safety, what Building Safety Month is, and how building safety affects us all.

  • Preparing a Building Safety Plan: Available educational resources (water/fire, sustainability & resiliency/disaster preparedness), including downloadable brochures, for building safety tips and best practices.
  • Learning from the Pros: A spotlight on building safety professionals, including what they do, how to work with them, and how to become one yourself.
  • Engaging Your Community: Information on how to advocate for building safety in your community, including actionable tips on how to be a proponent of building safety and ways to get kids involved.
  • Celebrating Success in Building Safety: Individuals and communities making a difference in building safety.

Building Safety: Talking With The Experts

As Building Safety Month draws to a close, Facility Executive talked with Karl Fippinger, CEM, PMP, Vice President, Fire and Disaster Mitigation for ICC’s Government Relations Department, and Beth Tubbs, Senior Staff Engineer with ICC’s Codes and Standards Development Department.

Read below as these two safety professionals share their expertise on building codes and safety plans, climate change and sustainability, disaster preparedness and response, business continuity, and more.

Facility Executive: What role do building codes play in facility management?
Building Safety, building codes
Beth Tubbs

Beth Tubbs: Building and related codes are essential to ensuring the safety and functionality of facilities, which is crucial not only for compliance but also for the protection of the building’s occupants and the facility. These codes provide a framework for maintaining structural integrity, fire safety, and overall safety and health for the occupants. By complying with building codes, facility managers can ensure that their buildings meet the required safety standards, thus minimizing risks and enhancing the overall safety of the environment. 

Building codes also enhance inclusivity of buildings and facilities through the requirements related to accessibility for those with disabilities.

FE: How do building safety plans impact construction/renovation projects, as well as the day-to-day operation of a facility?
Building Safety, building codes
Karl Fippinger, CEM, PMP

Karl Fippinger: Building safety plans play a critical role in construction and renovation projects as well as in the daily operations of a facility. During construction or renovation, building safety plans ensure that all established safety procedures are followed, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. In day-to-day operations, a well-crafted safety plan helps facility managers maintain a safe environment, and proactively manage risk. By integrating safety plans into daily operations, facility managers can help ensure occupant safety and continuity of operations.

FE: How are climate change and sustainability impacting building safety? Are any other factors having an impact?

Fippinger: Climate change and sustainability are increasingly influencing building safety. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe, necessitating the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of codes that mitigate risk and increase the resilience of the built environment.

Sustainable building practices play a crucial role by reducing environmental impact and promoting energy efficiency. Factors such as technological advancements and evolving human behavior also impact building safety. Adopting, implementing, and enforcing current building codes helps facility managers address these new challenges and improve overall building safety.

FE: How can facility managers be sure they are following the most up-to-date building codes and other relevant standards?

Tubbs: Facility managers can ensure compliance with the latest building and related codes and standards by actively communicating and collaborating with their local building and fire departments. These departments are staffed with professionals who can provide guidance on current regulations, permit requirements and inspection processes. Specifically communicating locally is important since the I-Codes may be modified at the state or local level and this understanding will ensure the correct provisions are applied. Certain localized values for structural design such as snow loads need to be verified by your local building department.

Utilizing resources and tools offered by building and fire departments, such as access to the latest codes adopted, can also help facility managers stay informed and compliant. Regularly engaging with these resources ensures that facility managers are aware of any updates or changes in building and related codes and standards that may be applicable.

Climate change and sustainability are increasingly influencing building safety. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe, necessitating the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of codes that mitigate risk and increase the resilience of the built environment.

FE: Do you have any practical advice for facility managers who need to develop building and/or fire safety plans?

Fippinger: Leverage your networks, partnerships, and resources. Your peers and colleagues have done this before and are a great place to start for model plans, templates, and approaches to developing effective building and fire safety plans. Professional associations are a great place to develop your networks and exchange ideas. Engaging with local fire departments, emergency managers, and safety consultants can provide valuable insights and help identify potential areas of improvement. Be sure to incorporate regular training and scenario-based exercises for staff to test and evaluate your plans. Conducting fire drills and performing regular audits to ensure that all safety equipment is functional and accessible are a couple of ways to accomplish that. Finally, update building and fire safety plans annually and be sure to communicate these plans clearly to all occupants and staff members.

FE: What role do building codes play in disaster preparedness and response?

Fippinger: Building codes are fundamental to disaster preparedness and response as they establish the minimum requirements for constructing safe, habitable buildings that are resilient to disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has found that adhering to the latest International Codes, or I-Codes, can significantly reduce losses from natural disasters. In fact, FEMA found that if all future construction were built to the latest edition of the I-Codes, the U.S. would avoid more than $600 billion in cumulative losses from natural disasters by 2060.

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FE: How do building codes impact businesses and organizations in terms of continuity and resilience?

Tubbs: Building and related codes are vital for business continuity and resilience. By setting high standards for construction and safety, codes help prevent disruptions caused by a number of different hazards including structural failures, fires or hazardous materials incidents. The codes require both methods of prevention and mitigation of hazards. Properly applied codes will provide not only for safety in the initial construction of the building but also for the long-term continuity of safety systems such as automatic sprinkler systems. For businesses, this means reduced downtime and lower repair costs in the event of an incident. Moreover, buildings that comply with up-to-date codes are better equipped to handle emergencies, ensuring the safety of employees and customers and maintaining operational stability. Continuous enforcement and adherence to these codes are crucial for long-term business resilience.

Click here for more facility management news about workplace safety. 

Facility Executive Magazine