Enhanced Carbon Monoxide Requirements in New Massachusetts Building Code

| February 23, 2018

Enhanced Carbon Monoxide Requirements in New Massachusetts Building Code

The 9th Edition of the Massachusetts Building Code is now in force. The code is based upon the 2015 International Building Code (IBC). The previous edition of the building code was based upon the 2009 IBC. An important new addition to the 2015 IBC is Section 915, “Carbon Monoxide Detection.” There are also additional CO-related compliance methods the Massachusetts Fire Code (527 CMR).

Carbon Monoxide (CO) detection is a key life safety consideration designing a building or space. CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can lead to headaches, confusion, dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. CO can be produced from any fuel fired equipment and occurs as a result of inefficient combustion. Where fuel fired equipment is present, there is always CO risk that should be considered in the design of the space. The 2015 IBC requirement addresses the following occupancies where specific conditions present increased risk of CO poisoning:

  • Institutional occupancies classified as Group I-1, I-2, or I-4 (group homes, hospitals, day cares, etc.)
  • Residential occupancies (Group R)
  • Classrooms in educational occupancies (Group E)

Within these occupancies the IBC does not require full-building CO detection. CO detection is required in Dwelling Units, Sleeping Units, and Classrooms where certain hazards are present. While a full list of conditions that require CO detection is contained in IBC Section 915.1.2 through 915.1.6, some common examples are listed below:

  • Space containing fuel-burning appliances or fireplaces
  • Space served by a fuel-burning forced-air furnace
  • Specific conditions where building contains fuel-burning equipment that doesn’t serve the space but could communicate to the space
  •  Building contains a private garage that could communicate to the space

When spaces require CO detection, the IBC allows them to be protected by either Carbon Monoxide Alarms (UL 2034) or Carbon Monoxide Detection Systems (UL 2075). Carbon Monoxide Alarms are required to be hardwired with battery backup (similar to modern single family residential smoke alarms). While the IBC does not require interconnection of CO alarms, Massachusetts has amended the code to require interconnection when one or more device is located within an educational or institutional use area or within a residential dwelling unit. Carbon Monoxide Alarms are not monitored by a central panel and only provide local annunciation of the alarm from the CO device.

In most cases the best solution for compliance is to utilize a Carbon Monoxide Detection System. This type of system requires compliance with NFPA 720, Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment, and can be integrated with the buildings fire alarm system. Since the fire alarm system is electronically supervised for functionality and regularly tested, the system is more likely to perform when it is needed. Any CO alert levels can be transmitted to a Central Station (Fire Alarm Monitoring Company), so potential issues can be identified even when the building is not occupied. Furthermore, educational occupancies require the alarm signal to be transmitted to a location continually monitored by school personnel. The fire alarm system can have a remote annunciator placed in the school office to accomplish this requirement.



Steve Southard

Fitzemeyer & Tocci has Fire Protection Engineers on staff that are licensed in all New England states. We are ready to assist with any fire protection, life safety, or code consulting questions you or your team may have. Please feel free to reach out to Fitzemeyer & Tocci’s Life Safety & Fire Protection Project Engineer, Steve Southard, PE by email or phone (781) 285-2298.

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