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Mechanical Code 101

What Role does the Mechanical Code Play in Code Enforcement?

The mechanical code plays a critical role in ensuring the proper installation of equipment and piping for many types of systems.  Just like other codes, its primary purpose is to provide safeguards to the public health and safety of all communities.  The mechanical code covers the typical building systems such as heating, cooling, kitchen exhaust, or gas piping and provides information to the use on proper installation and design of these many types of systems.

The systems are also critical to the building performance.  Ducts without proper fire dampers, or kitchen exhaust systems without appropriate seams can lead to the spread of fire during.  Buildings without proper ventilation could also lead to mold or comfort issues for the occupant.  The mechanical inspector may also be utilizing multiple code books in order to properly enforce the needed aspects of the code.

A mechanical code is typically adopted in conjunction with building and fire code.  Chapter 1 of the major codes deals with the administrative provisions to ensure the proper enforcement of the code.  Subsequent chapters very, although, they do include specific requirements based on the application of the section.      Many communities utilize the companion code which is part of a code series.

What Codes Are Available

There are three major codes available to the adopting community and utilized for different areas.  The most common is the International Code Series and the International Mechanical Code (IMC).  The most recent version is the 2009 edition.  The scope includes:

101.2 Scope

This code shall regulate the design, installation, maintenance, alteration and inspection of mechanical systems that are permanently installed and utilized to provide control of environmental conditions and related processes within buildings.  The code shall also regulate those mechanical systems, system components, equipment and appliances specifically addressed herein.  The installation of fuel gas distribution piping and equipment, fuel gas-fired appliance venting systems shall be regulated by the International Fuel Code

Exception: Detached one and two family dwellings and multiple single family dwellings not more then three stories high with separate means of egress and their accessory structures shall comply with the International Residential code.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides NFPA 54, The National Fuel Gas Code, 2009 edition.

The scope of the NFPA 54 is:

This code is a safety code that shall apply to the installation of fuel gas piping systems, appliances, equipment, and related accessories as shown below:

  • Coverage of piping systems shall extend from the point of delivery to the appliance connections. For other than undiluted liquefied petroleum gas (LP-Gas) systems, the point of delivery shall be considered to be the outlet of the service meter assembly or the outlet of the service regulator or service shutoff valve where no meter is provided. For undiluted LP-Gas, the point of delivery shall be considered to be the outlet of the final pressure regulator, exclusive of line gas regulators, in the system.
  • The maximum operating pressure shall be 125 psi. Exception No. 1:Piping systems for gas–air mixtures within the flammable range are limited to a maximum pressure of 10 psi.  Exception No. 2:LP-Gas piping systems are limited to 20 psi, except as provided in 5.5.1(6).
  • Requirements for piping systems shall include design, materials, components, fabrication, assembly, installation, testing, inspection, operation, and maintenance.
  • Requirements for appliances, equipment, and related accessories shall include installation, combustion, and ventilation air and venting.

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) publishes the 2009 edition of the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC).

A key requirement in all codes is the maintenance of the systems.  With any code or installed equipment, maintenance is key to ensure proper system use.  Wear, deterioration, corrosion, or dirt can create an unsafe mechanical system.

In your community who is responsible for enforcing the mechanical code?

Does that inspector perform maintenance inspections in accordance with the adopted code?


{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Milton Gregory Grew, AIA August 27, 2009, 10:19 am

    In CT the state last adopted 2003 IMC. We won’t have the 2009 IMC until probably 2012. Maintenance is not enforced by public inspectors because code as adopted only applies to new permits so there is no legal means for them to check on maintenance. I would be curious if there are any jurisdictions enforcing maintenance after the permit and certificate of occupancy have been issued. How would these inspections be paid for? What legal mechanism could be used?

  • Tina Robinette August 29, 2009, 10:11 pm

    Maintenance may be (& should be) required in the manufactures paperwork. If so then you can enforce said maintenance without citing code.

    • Milton Gregory Grew, AIA August 29, 2009, 11:56 pm

      In CT, by statute, building officials have no authority to preform inspections in buildings after a C.O. has been issued. It is than an “existing building” and not subject to inspections until the next time permits are obtained for other work. Are there jurisdictions that give inspectors such authority and what legal mechanism do they use? Even if maintenance is required by code reference standards or manufacturers instructions it does not matter if inspections have no legal authority to inspect. It merely because the voluntary responsibility of the building owner.

  • Mikey August 31, 2009, 10:19 pm

    Milton, thanks for the comments, this is my approach because the issue on scope of enforcement comes up often. The maintenance side of the house is typically enforced by the fire based inspector. As mentioned in the post the maintenance of mechanical systems is part of the scope of the code and is critical in system performance.

    If the fire inspector/marshal is aware of the requirements in the mechanical code, they can ask for documentation of the system, or show proof a suspect piece of equipment was installed under a permit, which may trigger the mechanical inspector in the process. I guess this is one way to get the legal authority, because the mechanical inspector is needed. It would be very similar to the Electrical Inspector in the process

    Tina, thanks for the comments.

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