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City commission waives firewall requirement for North Light

Monday, September 3, 2012 | 7:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An exception granted by a city commission will allow North Light LLC to build doors through a property-line firewall between its apartments and the adjacent city-owned Short Street garage.

The variance was granted in a unanimous vote by the Building Construction Codes Commission last week. Architect John Simon, representing North Light, told commissioners at a public hearing last Monday that the developer would carry additional costs building more costly emergency exits if the board decided against a waiver.

Doors and other openings usually are prohibited in firewalls between closely situated buildings because they can allow smoke and fire to migrate between buildings, Fire Marshall Brad Fraizer said.

The commissioners "balanced several issues" in their decision to grant North Light a waiver, Fraizer said. Doors in the firewall between the apartment building and the garage might allow smoke and fire to travel from one building to another, but they also can serve as another avenue of escape.

Section 706.1.1 of the International Building Code, which with Columbia adheres, states that "party walls shall be constructed without openings and shall create separate buildings." The party wall, in this case, is North Light's firewall.

Commissioner David Weber advocated giving North Light the waiver, saying the North Light and Short Street garage projects represent a unique public-private partnership that benefits both the city and the developer.

Phil Teeple, building regulation supervisor for the city, said he received an inquiry from Simon on May 14 about the legality of building doors in a property line firewall. Teeple replied that the doors would violate the building code and that Simon could appeal for a variance from the commission.

Teeple said he does not plan to appeal the commission's decision.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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