Category Archives: Codes & Regulations

Information on codes and regulations that effect architecture in New Jersey.

LAN ASSOCIATES PARTNERS WITH CITY OF NEWARK TO PROVIDE FIRE PREVENTION MATERIALS TO THOUSANDS OF NEWARK SCHOOL CHILDREN

 

In support of National Fire Prevention Week, LAN Associates partnered with the City of Newark and the Newark Fire Department to teach local school children the importance of fire safety and preparedness.

20171011 LAN(From Left to Right) – Newark Fire Fighter Fernandes, Newark Deputy Chief Witte, LAN CEO Ron Panicucci, Principal Garrison, Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson, Newark Firefighter Thomas, and Newark Fire Captain Mustafa Al-Mutazzim

 

More than two hundred second and third grade students at Camden Street School participated in a program on fire safety and prevention presented by LAN Associates and the Newark Fire Department. In addition to the presentation, LAN Associates – a full-service architectural and engineering firm based in Midland Park, NJ — supplied National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) approved educational fire prevention materials for 2,000 additional Newark second and third grade students.

 

“As architects and engineers, we find it especially important and rewarding to educate children on the importance of fire safety and prevention,” said Kim Vierheilig, AIA. “It is important students know what to do when an emergency arises at home or in school, and that starts with proactive fire safety presentations such as the one today.”

 

Since 1922, National Fire Prevention Week has been held annually to educate, spread awareness, and commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  This year’s NFPA campaign is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!”, and reinforces why having a varied escape plan is so important in the event of a fire.

 

“Partnering with LAN Associates to provide a top-notch fire prevention education program is something we strive for in Newark,” said Fire Chief Rufus Jackson. “This is a public-private partnership on the grassroots level – and it works to enhance the culture of learning in our public schools.”

 

Onque praised the Newark Public Safety Fire Division for its year-long community outreach efforts, including the varied Fire Prevention Week events which will last throughout the month of October.

 

“On behalf of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the City is grateful to continue this partnership with LAN Associates to bring a remarkably high-quality fire prevention and preparedness program to our youngest students” said Onque. “Our hope is that students will go home and discuss this important program and the materials with their families.”

 

20171011 LAN 2

Firefighters Thomas and Fernandes led an engaging dialogue on safety tips like stop, drop, and roll, escape plans in the event of a fire, and proper usage of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The presentation concluded with student touring the fire truck outside the school, where firefighters gave a demonstration on how the fire department responds to 911 calls and the 80lb of equipment they wear.

 

According to a recent NFPA study, 3,390 civilian fire deaths occurred in 2016. NFPA estimates that one civilian death occurred every 2 hours and 35 minutes during that same year.

 

 

 

AIA NJ Leaders participate in the Municipal Land Use Law RE-FORUM Meeting on May 19,2017

Presentation of Compendium of Notes

from MLUL RE-FORUM Meeting on May 19, 2017 

to the West Orange Township Council

by Jerome Leslie Eben, FAIA, PP, [email protected]

 

The Hon. Joe Krakoviak, West Orange Township Council President recently invited AIA NJ Past President Jerome Eben, FAIA to speak on the Municipal Land Use Law Re-Forum. Organized by the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association this past May, AIA NJ was one of many sponsors. Jerry talked about this extremely informative event and a follow up meeting in July that he attended with President Ben Lee, AIA.

Jerry explained to the Council, Hon. Robert Parisi, Mayor and about 75 members of the public that along with many of his colleagues, we have long known that the  zoning in this New Jersey is broken and has been for a very long time.  He explained that AIA-NJ had a decade ago, given thought to the problem, as well as a name, calling it:

 

“Zoning Ridiculousness”

 

Jerry spoke of the lack of intelligent planning throughout New Jersey’s 565 municipalities.  Highlighting that this is especially critical in areas along common border lines.   Despite the apparent fact that individual Master Plans declare that the so called intelligent planning exists between these communities, in truth it does not.
This is the consensus of the many professionals who have the chore of navigating the MLUL on behalf of their clients.  He explained that the costs both the clients and in turn (alphabetically) architects, attorneys, engineers, planners and sometimes many other consultants in appearing before municipal regulatory boards, is out of control.

In a very general way, what came out of the RE-FORUM meeting was the following important QUESTION:

How can we enhance and update the MLUL to reflect 21st century planning advancements, recognize the diversity of conditions across municipalities, create an efficient, value-driven review process, and ensure development and preservation outcomes that support shared statewide priorities of prosperity, environmental stewardship, affordability, mobility, public health & safety, quality places and sustainable design?

 

The meeting organizers recommended attendance by experienced practitioners, decision-makers and opinion leaders.  There were well over 150 participants to share their vision for how the MLUL could be updated to authorized the use of invocative planning tools in NJ communities. The goal would be to PREVENT internal inconsistencies between Master Plans, Zoning Ordinances and re-examination reports that in fact confound the for mentioned professionals, not to mention the public.

The Compendium of Notes from this program reflect the highlights from twenty-eight (28) Breakout Sessions.  Over fifty (50) pages of records have been placed on the association’s web page.  They reflect the general opinions from those who participated in these sessions.  

Click here to read the entire report.
Because of a time constraint, Jerry addressed only a few of the items, but he tells us they were those close to his long time push to get enforcement under control, make sure contents of the Master Plan include detailed points to review on the zoning ordinances and that it would be helpful to professionals appearing before these boards if the volunteer board members were better educated and prepared by visiting the proposed sites prior to their actual meeting.

 

He also mentioned that it is extremely important for Zoning Officers to be a trained in Planning and Zoning issues and State certified with followed up mandatory continuing education credits!  

 

Lastly, he spoke of the support of non-automobile mobility options………SAFE STREETS ARE A MUST and ordinances on paper need to be applied to all applicants with strict enforcement.

 

The Re-Forum committee meets again in September. Ben and Jerry will be present and promise their fellow members of AIA NJ a follow up to where hopefully this will lead all of us to the removal of Zoning Ridiculousness in our State.

 

AIA NJ takes action to protect New Jersey from New Executive Order that exposes Government Infrastructure to Flood Risk

red_eagleOn Tuesday, August 15, President Trump issued a new executive order that rolls back Obama-era protections put in place to ensure that government-funded infrastructure projects in flood prone areas would be less exposed to flooding and the effects of climate change. Read more on this executive order here.

Illya Azaroff, AIA Regional Recovery Work Group, and a resiliency expert on AIA National’s Strategic Council says, “In the northeast alone 20% of the US GDP is accounted for from the Boston-Washington corridor or megalopolis. In that same 2% of US land area 48.6 million people reside and it is all connected by a tangled web of infrastructure that is very vulnerable to immediate shocks and stresses. Since Super Storm Sandy the way forward in not only this region but around the country has progressed toward comprehensive resilient building measures that account for risks of today and those predicted in the future. To reverse Obama era directives that aim to design for climate change across political and state boundaries is to say the least a short sighted failure of leadership. I believe the health safety and welfare of the public is at greater risk without these measures in place. ”

Here in New Jersey, we still hear residents speak of the effect of Sandy on our communities, the days before compared to the way things are now.  While the Obama regulations created a new landscape for many on the Jersey Shore, those changes brought a sense of security to people, allowing them to stay in their communities rather than relocating to higher ground. Will that now be ripped out from under our neighbors?

New Jersey’s environmental groups respond to the new executive order. See comments here.

AIA NJ is not in support of the new executive order. It goes against our core values:

  • We stand for a sustainable future
  • We stand for protecting communities from the impact of climate change

President Elect Verity Frizzell, AIA says, “Yes, there is some additional cost to raising projects another 2 or 3 feet, but it is nothing compared to the cost of rebuilding after a flood.  It shouldn’t cause any delays in permitting, at all, unless the original plans weren’t drawn to the higher standard and had to be re-drawn.  It is another example of our President’s shortsightedness and operating without full knowledge of the consequences of his decisions.”

AIA NJ President, Ben Lee, AIA has issued a plan of action that is already underway, with AIA NJ representatives scheduling Summer Recess meetings with our Congressmen and Senators,  and discussions with State Legislators being planned. Our Committee on the Environment is advising on the recommended plan for our state.

 

 

AIA NJ supports the passing of Senate Bill-3317

On June 26, 2017, NJ Senate passed S-3317 to require NJ to Join Climate Alliance to uphold Paris Climate Accord. AIA NJ supports the passing of this Senate Bill.

Along with AIA National, AIA NJ stands for a sustainable future and for protecting communities from the impact of climate change. 

Climate change caused by human activity remains one of the most urgent challenges of the 21st century. Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already are causing rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and degradation of natural resources. These trends are projected to continue and possibly accelerate, posing significant risks to national security, human health, food supply, global economies, and natural ecosystems; many of these result in refugee crises.

The AIA recognizes that current planning, design, construction, and real
estate practices contribute to patterns of resource consumption that will inhibit
the sustainable future of the Earth. Architects, as the leaders in design of the
built environment, are responsible to act as stewards of the Earth.
Consequently, we encourage communities to join with us in changing the
course of the planet’s future by supporting governmental and private sector
policy programs, including the development, evaluation, and use of codes,
standards and evidence-based rating systems, that promote the design,
preservation, and construction of sustainable communities and highperformance
buildings.

It is in this spirit that AIA NJ supports the passing of Senate Bill-3317 and we are looking forward to supporting the passing of coordinating Assembly Bill-5040.

SENATE, No. 3317

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

217th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 15, 2017

 

Sponsored by:

Senator  BOB SMITH, District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN, District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

SYNOPSIS:      Requires NJ to join U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold Paris Climate Accord.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT:      As introduced.

An Act requiring New Jersey to join the United States Climate Alliance, and supplementing Title 26 of the Revised Statutes.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

  1. The State shall join the United States Climate Alliance and uphold the Paris Climate Accord, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and address the threats posed by climate change in accordance with the goals established therefor by the alliance.

 

  1. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

STATEMENT

This bill would require New Jersey to join the United States Climate Alliance, a group formed to pursue policies to uphold the United States’ commitments to the Paris Climate Accord in order to address the threats posed by climate change.  The group was formed by the Governors of California, New York, and Washington after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

The Paris Climate Accord, joined by 195 countries, sets forth a five-year goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and aims to limit the increase in average global temperature to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.  The signatories to the agreement also pledge to undertake rapid reductions in greenhouse gases thereafter in accordance with best available science. Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans.  Since the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the Governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, as well as the Governor of Puerto Rico and the Mayor of the District of Columbia joined the alliance.  Hundreds of mayors, business leaders, and university presidents have committed to honor the goals of the Paris agreement as well.  The United States Climate Alliance is committed to upholding the Paris Climate Accord and reducing greenhouse gases in order to address the threats posed by climate change.

Current member states of the U.S. Climate Alliance comprise 36 percent of the United States population and over 30 percent of the United States gross domestic product.  The United States’ goal under the Paris Climate Accord was to reduce national emissions by 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program

hudseal_teal_1Announcing the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed to promote compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. The program consists of a comprehensive training curriculum, as well as a toll-free information line and website designed to provide technical guidance to the public.

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST & HUD will be providing a FREE FHA FIRST Design & Construction training in New York, NY on June 20th, 2017 from 8:30am to 3:30pm. The event is sponsored by the New York State Division of Human Rights and the training will be held at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building, 6th Floor Conference Center, located at 26 Federal Plaza. A flyer with complete details is attached.is would be of particular interest to developers, builders, architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, property managers, general contractors, accessibility organizations, disability rights advocates, building code officials and government agencies.

The presenter will be Doug Anderson, CASp, R.A.S.; a partner at LCM Architects. The following modules will be covered:

· Module 10 – Design and Construction Requirements of the Fair Housing Act: Technical Overview

· Module 9 – Common Design & Construction Violations & Solutions

This training will provide members with 4½ hours of AIA-approved CEU credits and training certificates will be provided without cost to anyone who requests them.

Register for Fair Housing Design and Construction Training Here!

Architects Action Day – New Date

Due to a change in the NJ legislative schedule AIA NJ Architects Action Day will be postponed until November 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will be able to join us this fall.

Do you want your voice to be heard?

Take a stand to preserve the common values we share in our profession.

When Architects speak up,
policy makers listen.

Join AIA New Jersey
for Architects Action Day
on June 12, 2017!

This full day event will be held at the New Jersey State House in Trenton.

All are welcome to attend. No prior legislative experience is needed.

Learn More – Speak Up – Click Here –

Effective May 1, 2017: N.J.A.C. Rule Adoption allowing Digital Signing and Sealing of Documents

NEW JERSEY REGISTER

Copyright © 2017 by the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 9

ISSUE DATE: MAY 1, 2017

RULE ADOPTIONS

LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY

DIVISION OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS

STATE BOARD OF ARCHITECTS

49 N.J.R. 1093(a)

Adopted Amendments: N.J.A.C. 13:27-3.1, 6.2, 6.3, and 8.9

Adopted New Rules: N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5 and 8.10

Digital Signing and Sealing of Documents

Proposed: October 3, 2016, at 48 N.J.R. 2028(a).

Adopted: February 24, 2017, by the New Jersey State Board of Architects, Obiora C. Agudosi, RA, President.

Filed: March 29, 2017, as R.2017 d.079, with non-substantial changes not requiring additional public notice and comment (see N.J.A.C. 1:30-6.3).

Authority: N.J.S.A. 45:3-3 and 45:3A-13.

Effective Date: May 1, 2017.

Expiration Date: February 7, 2018.

Summary of Public Comments and Agency Responses follows:

The official comment period ended December 2, 2016. The Board received one comment on the notice of proposal from Marc Pfeiffer, Assistant Director, Bloustein Local Government Research Center, Rutgers University. In order to ensure compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act and the rules promulgated by the Office of Administrative Law, the comment period was reopened and extended from December 19, 2016, to January 17, 2017. The Board received no additional comments during the extension.

1. Mr. Pfeiffer applauds the Board’s proposal, noting his support for the Board’s move to accept digital seals and signatures. However, he expresses concern that the link in proposed new N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5(a)1 and 8.10(a)1 to the standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is to a third-party web address and not to an address maintained by NIST. He recommends that the link be changed to a web address managed by NIST.

RESPONSE: The Board thanks Mr. Pfeiffer for his comments and understands his concern over the link. Third-party addresses can be altered or become defunct. The Board is changing N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5(a)1 and 8.10(a)1 and changing the link so it goes to the document hosted directly on the NIST website.

Summary of Agency-Initiated Changes: The State Board of Architects is changing N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5 and 8.10 on adoption to correct an error in the year listed as the publication date of the FIPS PUB 186-4 document. As proposed, it says the publication was released in 2014. The publication was actually released in 2013.

Federal Standards Statement

A Federal standards analysis is not required because the adopted amendments and new rules are subject to State statutory requirements and are not subject to any Federal requirements or standards.

Full text of the adoption follows (additions to proposal indicated in boldface with asterisks *thus*; deletions from proposal indicated in brackets with asterisks *[thus]*):

SUBCHAPTER 3. ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE AND RESPONSIBILITY

13:27-3.1 Definitions

The following words and terms, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

. . .

“Electronic transmission” means the transmission of electronic data files from one electronic device to another. The term includes manual delivery of electronic data storage media from one person or entity to another.

. . .

“Seal” means a digital or impression type seal meeting the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5 and 8.10 and affixed to a document by a licensee.

“Signature” means a digital or handwritten signature of a licensee affixed to a document in accordance with N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5 and 8.10.

SUBCHAPTER 6. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A TITLE BLOCK

13:27-6.2 Title block contents; requirements by form of architectural practice

(a) When the architect practices as an individual or sole proprietor the title block shall contain:

1.-4. (No change.)

5. The name, license number, and space for the signature of the architect in responsible charge, and the date when signed.

(b) When a partnership or limited liability partnership of two or more licensed architects or closely allied professionals, in which at least one partner is an architect, practice architecture, the title block shall contain:

1.-4. (No change.)

5. The name, license number, and space for the signature of the architect in responsible charge, and the date when signed.

(c) When professionals practice architecture as a professional service corporation organized under N.J.S.A. 14A:17-1 et seq., the title block shall contain:

1.-4. (No change.)

5. The name, license number, and space for the signature of the architect in responsible charge, and the date when signed.

(d) Title block contents for a general business corporation or limited liability company authorized to practice architecture under a Certificate of Authorization issued pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:27-4.8 shall contain:

1.-4. (No change.)

5. The full name, license number, and space for the signature of the architect in responsible charge, and the date when signed.

(e)-(h) (No change.)

13:27-6.3 Signing and sealing construction documents

(a)-(b) (No change.)

(c) Construction documents and the title pages of the specifications for filing with a public agency or for the owner’s legal documentation requirements may be digitally signed and sealed if the digital signature and seal meet the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:27-6.5. An architect using a seal press shall seal construction documents only with seal presses purchased or exchanged through the Board. 1

3:27-6.5 Digital signatures and seals

(a) A digital signature and seal shall possess the same weight, authority, and effect as handwritten signature and pressure seal when the following criteria are met:

1. The digital signing and sealing process satisfies the requirements of the Digital Signature Standard (DSS) established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FIPS PUB 186-4 *[(2014)]* *(2013)*, which is incorporated herein by reference, as amended and supplemented. This standard may be obtained at: *[http://cryptome.org/2013/07/NIST.FIPS.186-4.pdf]* *http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/FIPS/NIST.FIPS.186-4.pdf*. The digital signature and seal must be:

i. Unique to the licensee;

ii. Verifiable by a trusted third party or some other approved process as belonging to the licensee;

iii. Under the licensee’s direct and exclusive control; and

iv. Linked to a document in such a manner that the digital signature and seal is invalidated if any data in the document is changed. Once the digital signature and seal are applied to the document, the document shall be available in read-only format if the document is to be digitally transmitted.

(b) A licensee who digitally signs and seals a document shall maintain a digital copy of the electronically transmitted document that has also been digitally signed and sealed for future verification purposes.

(c) The pictorial representation of the digital signature and seal shall be readily available to the Board upon request and shall be produced in a [page=1094] manner acceptable to the Board. It shall contain the same words and shall have substantially the same graphic appearance and size as when the image of the digitally transmitted document is viewed at the same size as the document in its original form.

(d) Licensees are responsible for the use of their private digital keys. A lost or compromised key shall not be used and the licensee shall cause a new key pair to be generated in accordance with the criteria set forth in (a) above. A licensee shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a compromised key is invalidated, and shall inform all affected clients that the digital key has been compromised.

SUBCHAPTER 8. LICENSED LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS

13:27-8.9 Seal and signature

(a)-(d) (No change.)

(e) Construction documents and the title pages of the specifications for filing with a public agency or for the owner’s legal documentation requirements may be digitally signed and sealed if the digital signature and seal meet the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:27-8.10.

13:27-8.10 Digital signatures and seals

(a) A digital signature and seal shall possess the same weight, authority, and effect as handwritten signature and pressure seal when the following criteria are met:

1. The digital signing and sealing process satisfies the requirements of the Digital Signature Standard (DSS) established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FIPS PUB 186-4 *[(2014)]* *(2013)*, which is incorporated herein by reference, as amended and supplemented. This standard may be obtained at: *[http://cryptome.org/2013/07/NIST.FIPS.186-4.pdf]* *http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/FIPS/NIST.FIPS.186-4.pdf*. The digital signature and seal must be:

i. Unique to the licensee;

ii. Verifiable by a trusted third party or some other approved process as belonging to the licensee;

iii. Under the licensee’s direct and exclusive control; and

iv. Linked to a document in such a manner that the digital signature and seal is invalidated if any data in the document is changed. Once the digital signature and seal are applied to the document, the document shall be available in read-only format if the document is to be digitally transmitted.

(b) A licensee who digitally signs and seals a document shall maintain a digital copy of the electronically transmitted document that has also been digitally signed and sealed for future verification purposes.

(c) The pictorial representation of the digital signature and seal shall be readily available to the Board upon request and shall be produced in a manner acceptable to the Board. It shall contain the same words and shall have substantially the same graphic appearance and size as when the image of the digitally transmitted document is viewed at the same size as the document in its original form.

(d) Licensees are responsible for the use of their private digital keys. A lost or compromised key shall not be used and the licensee shall cause a new key pair to be generated in accordance with the criteria set forth in (a) above. A licensee shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a compromised key is invalidated, and shall inform all affected clients that the digital key has been compromised.

END

Save the Date for AIA-NJ

Don’t forget to clear your calendar to attend these important AIA-NJ events…

May 19. NJ Re-Forum. Municipal Land Use Law. Details and registration here.

June 12. Architects Action Day. Register Here.

June 22. East Coast Green: Health, Safety & Wellness. Registration is open!

August 1. Community Resilience Course. Limited capacity; register here.

November 9-11. Quad States. AIA NJ Design Conference is at this event! Click here.

Fire Sprinkler Legislation Introduced

As originally printed in NorthJersey.com:

, State House Bureau, @nickpugz

Prieto, Tedesco unveil long-awaited fire legislation

Two years after a devastating fire ripped through a large Edgewater apartment complex and destroyed the homes of some 500 people, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has introduced legislation intended to better protect residential buildings from fast moving blazes that can feast on wood construction.

The Democratic lawmaker from Secaucus, who is also a construction code official, appeared at the Edgewater Community Center on Friday alongside Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland, who spoke of the urgent need for two bills related to fire safety that Prieto quietly introduced last month.

“While we cannot prevent fires from starting, there are things we can do to prevent the spread of fire,” said Tedesco, a former firefighter who demanded fire safety reforms in his State of the County speech in February. “Together, these changes to the construction code will not only save lives of the residents in the event of a fire, but they’ll also save the lives of our firefighters and other first responders.”

Politicians, fire safety experts and citizen activists have been calling for changes to the state’s building code since Jan. 21, 2015, when an unlicensed maintenance worker using a blowtorch lit a piece of insulation on fire in the wall at the Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex on River Road.

What happened next, they say, proved New Jersey’s building code to be deficient. The flames were able to spread rapidly through the entire 240-unit building and, despite the efforts of first responders from more than 40 agencies, reduced everything but the concrete elevator shafts to rubble.

“We basically had an area the size of a city block engulfed in flames in a very, very, very short period of time,” McPartland recalled Friday. “Even though the apartment complex was equipped with sprinklers, the place literally burned to the ground and the residents lost everything they had.”

A very small price to pay’

Prieto’s first bill, A-96, which is co-sponsored by assemblymen Tim Eustace, D-Maywood, and Joe Lagana, D-Paramus, responds to a few key concerns that were raised in the wake of the Edgewater fire.

First, it would mandate that all concealed combustible spaces in wood-frame multi-unit residences — the type of buildings that thousands of New Jerseyans call home — be equipped with some sort of automatic fire-suppression system.

Currently, New Jersey’s building code doesn’t require sprinkler heads in such places as attics or the void spaces in floors and ceilings. In the case of the Avalon at Edgewater complex, that meant there was nothing to knock down the fire as it traveled through the building’s attics, walls and floor assemblies.

Second, the bill would tamp down on the use of “pedestal construction”  by developers. Typically, those are parking garages on which residential units are built that allow them to construct buildings with more floors than would otherwise be permitted under the code.

Firefighters say pedestals make it harder to reach flames and can put residents on upper levels out of reach of first-responders.

Third, the bill limits the size of wood-frame buildings without a robust fire suppression system to two floors and 10,000 square feet per floor. Any developer who wants more square footage would have to install masonry fire walls between attached buildings.

That provision is intended to constrain how large any one fire can grow.

Prieto described the measure as a middle-of-the-road approach that achieves enhanced fire protection while minimizing the impact on construction costs. He estimated that the new sprinkler mandate would cost developers about $1,000 per unit.

“That is a very small price to pay to be able to get this additional protection,” he said. “We have left in place for them to be able to build the right density and be able to keep building affordable housing.”

‘They’re playing the politicians’

But several people in attendance Friday said Prieto’s legislation doesn’t go far enough.

Edgewater Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said he had hoped the bill would restrict the use of engineered wood — commonly referred to as “lightweight wood” — in residential buildings like the Avalon complex. Developers often prefer engineered wood because it’s cheaper and faster to assemble, but it also burns and collapses faster in the event of a fire.

“I still would rather see noncombustible materials used in buildings of that magnitude, you know, concrete, steel, something that’s not going to burn,” he said. “But at least the ball has started to be pushed in the right direction.”

Alexi Assmus, a citizen activist from Princeton who manages a Facebook groups called Massive Fires Damage Lives, criticized the bill for continuing to permit the construction of “mega-lot buildings” that, in the event of a fire, can result in multiple homes being consumed.

“The bill protects life safety, but it still doesn’t protect the loss of hundreds of homes in a single fire start,” she said. “You could still have a huge conflagration.”

She also dismissed the notion that lawmakers need to be so sensitive toward the building industry when crafting fire safety legislation. A recent state Supreme Court ruling that municipalities have to clear the way for the construction of tens of thousands of affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income residents, she said, is enough of a boon for developers.

“They’re able to build these very high-density apartments with combustible construction,” she said of New Jersey’s developers. “And everyone says, ‘Oh, affordable housing, we can’t do anything.’ They’re playing the public. They’re playing the judges. They’re playing the politicians.”

The second bill Prieto announced Friday, A-97, would require a fire safety expert to monitor any construction site where multi-unit residential buildings like apartments or hotels are being built.

Advocates have called for so-called “fire watches” in light of recent fires at an apartment complex under construction in Maplewood and elsewhere across the country.

June target for passage

Prieto, who works as a construction code official in Secaucus and Guttenberg, took more than two years from the time of the Edgewater fire to propose changes to New Jersey’s building code, saying he has been working for months to earn the buy-in of various interest groups and officials. Nonetheless, one of the bills he announced Friday was nearly identical to a measure, A-1914, that has been pending in the Legislature since December 2015, when it was introduced by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.

Prieto said he intended to get both his bills through the Legislature by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

“This is a bill that I think will have overwhelming support in the Assembly, and the Senate will follow suit,” he said.

NJ Re-Forum Event Planned

AIA NJ Members…Land Use Law Reform discussion REGISTER TODAY

AIA New Jersey has signed on a part of the MLUL Reform Steering Committee and will be involved in the discussion.  Hope to see you there.

Municipal Land Use Law Re-Forum

Are you a municipal official, planner, developer, land use attorney, architect, or anyone else with an interest in local development who has found themselves frustrated by the ins and outs of the Municipal Land Use Law?  If so, join us for a Re-Forum where our open meeting format will allow participants to shape the agenda on what changes you’d like to see!

 

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