NC Building Code Council to Consider Amending Residential Firewall Requirement

The North Carolina Building Code Council will soon consider an amendment to the 2012 NC Residential Code that would correct a firewall issue now causing headaches for builders around the state.

The proposed change, submitted by the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), would reduce the required minimum fire separation distance from 5′ to 3′, where it was before the new code went into effect on March 1. If approved, the change would eliminate the need for home plans to be redesigned with fire-rated exterior walls in order to be built on one of the hundreds of platted and developed lots in Mecklenburg County with side yards measuring less than 5′.

Under the current code, any home constructed less than 5 feet from the property line is required to have a 1-hour rated wall, with openings on no more than 25% percent of the surface.  Any home constructed less than 3 feet from the property line is required to have a 1-hour rated wall, with NO openings (windows or doors) allowed. If the code language is NOT amended, the following problems will continue to occur:

  1. Hundreds of lots in Mecklenburg County may lose value because they can only accommodate a much smaller home.
  2. Very small lots may be unbuildable, especially in TND neighborhoods.
  3. Builders may have to create new product for these lots costing significant time and money.
  4. The fragile housing industry in NC could lose momentum costing jobs and tax revenues.

The Building Code Council held a public hearing December 10 in Raleigh to consider this proposed change, and a vote is expected in March.

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