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Setting Performance Code Objectives: How Do We Decide What Performance the Codes Intend?

pdf icon Setting Performance Code Objectives: How Do We Decide What Performance the Codes Intend? (403 K)
Bukowski, R. W.

Interscience Communications Ltd.; National Institute of Standards and Technology; Building Research Establishment; and Society of Fire Protection Engineers; Swedish National Testing and Research Institute. Interflam '96. International Interflam Conference, 7th Proceedings. March 26-28, 1996, Cambridge, England, Interscience Communications Ltd., London, England, Franks, C. A.; Grayson, S., Editor(s)(s), 555-561 pp, 1996.


fire safety; codes; building codes; fire codes; safety factors; occupants


There is a worldwide movement toward the replacement of prescriptive codes with those based on performance against a set of clear and quantifiable objectives. This has sparked an important discussion of just what are appropriate objectives for society to demand of its built environment. Building codes have evolved well beyond their traditional roles of assuring the public health and welfare by incorporating requirements addressing social issues such as conservation and protection of heritage. In the fire codes, debate is ranging over whether people should be required to protect their own property from fire, and whether society can afford to protect all of the occupants and the fire service throughout any incident. Thus far, the discussion has been limited to identifying objectives, and has not yet turned to performance levels; a step that must be taken before performance codes can be implemented. Performance levels cannot simply be derived from current codes. Defining code objectives and performance levels in the U.S. presents a special challenge since these public policy issues must be debated by several model code groups, fifty state legislatures, and countless local bodies. NIST's role in the process is to provide the technical basis for the evaluation of performance against objectives, but not in setting the objectives nor their levels. However, since the code objectives in part determine the need for specific performance evaluation methods, NIST has an interest in facilitating the reaching of consensus on these difficult issues related to its role in the application of technology to maintaining U.S. competitiveness in world markets.