Utah Fire Code: Solar Provisions

Utah's State Construction and Fire Codes Act (Utah Code Title 15A., Chapter 5) includes provisions relating to rooftop solar energy systems for both residential and non-residential structures. Utah's State Fire Code is modified from the International Fire Code, which is reviewed and updated every 3 years in concert with all other building codes.  Utah state law allows Local Fire Districts to interpret and enforce the State Fire Code at the local level.  

As of July 13, 2013, the Utah State Legislature adopted several solar-related updates to the State Fire Code; current code gives Local Fire Districts the authority to make exemptions to certain provisions in the code relating to residential rooftop solar installations.  Specifically, Local Fire Officials are authorized to make exemptions relating to the space surrounding a rooftop solar system (the perimeter): Reduction in pathways and clear access width shall be permitted where shown that a rational approach has been used and that such reductions are warranted when approved by the Fire Code Official (Utah Code 15A-5-203(2)c). 

Utah's solar industry and Utah Clean Energy continue to work closely with State Fire Marshall and local fire districts to simultaneously address fire safety and access concerns while also maximizing the amount of viable roofspace available for solar energy systems.  With continued training and education, both solar installers and fire officials are working to achieve greater consensus on the appropriate interpretation of the new fire code and, thus, enable more solar PV projects.

The following elements of the fire code relating to roof-mounted systems are in effect statewide:

Residential

Utah Code 15A-5-203(2)c: In IFC, Chapter 6, Section 605.11.3.2, Residential Systems for One and Two Family Dwellings, is deleted and rewritten as follows: "Access to residential systems for one and two family dwellings shall be provided in accordance with Sections 605.11.3.2.1 through 605.11.3.2.4.

Exception: Reduction in pathways and clear access width shall be permitted where shown that a rational approach has been used and that such reductions are warranted when approved by the Fire Code Official.

  • IFC 605.11.3.2.1 Residential buildings with hip roof layouts. Panels/modules installed on residential buildings with hip roof layouts shall be located in a manner that provides a 3-foot-wide (914 mm) clear access pathway from the eave to the ridge on each roof slope where panels/modules are located. The access pathway shall be located at a structurally strong location on the building capable of supporting the live load of fire fighters accessing the roof.
    • Exception: These requirements shall not apply to roofs with slopes of two units vertical in 12 units horizontal (2:12) or less.

  • IFC 605.11.3.2.2 Residential buildings with a single ridge. Panels/modules installed on residential buildings with a single ridge shall be located in a manner that provides two, 3-foot-wide (914 mm) access pathways from the eave to the ridge on each roof slope where panels/modules are located.
    • Exception: This requirement shall not apply to roofs with slopes of two units vertical in 12 units horizontal (2:12) or less.

  • IFC 605.11.3.2.3 Residential buildings with roof hips and valleys. Panels/modules installed on residential buildings with roof hips and valleys shall be located no closer than 18 inches (457 mm) to a hip or a valley where panels/modules are to be placed on both sides of a hip or valley. Where panels are to be located on only one side of a hip or valley that is of equal length, the panels shall be permitted to be placed directly adjacent to the hip or valley.
    • Exception: These requirements shall not apply to roofs with slopes of two units vertical in 12 units horizontal (2:12) or less.

  • IFC 605.11.3.2.4 Residential building smoke ventilation. Panels/modules installed on residential buildings shall be located no higher than 3 feet (914 mm) below the ridge in order to allow for fire department smoke ventilation operations.

Non- Residential

Utah Code 15A-5-203(2) For IFC, Chapter 6, Building Services and Systems:

            (a) In IFC, Chapter 6, Section 605.11.3.3.1, Access, is deleted and rewritten as follows: "There shall be a minimum three foot wide (914 mm) clear perimeter around the edges of the roof."

            (b) In IFC, Chapter 6, Section 605.11.3.3.2, Pathways, is deleted and rewritten as follows: "The solar installation shall be designed to provide designated pathways. The pathways shall meet the following requirements:

            1. The pathway shall be over areas capable of supporting the live load of fire fighters accessing the roof.

            2. The centerline axis pathways shall be provided in both axes of the roof. Centerline axis pathways shall run where the roof structure is capable of supporting the live load of fire fighters accessing the roof.

            3. Smoke and heat vents required by Section 910.2.1 or 910.2.2 of this Code, shall be provided with a clear pathway width of not less than three feet (914 mm) to vents.

            4. Access to roof area required by Section 504.2 or 1009.16 of this Code, shall be provided with a clear pathway width of not less than three feet (914 mm) around access opening and at least three feet (914 mm) clear pathway to parapet or roof edge."

           (d) In IFC, Chapter 6, Section 605.11.3.3.3, Smoke Ventilation, is deleted and rewritten as follows: "The solar installation shall be designed to meet the following requirements:

            1. Arrays shall be no greater than 150 feet (45.720 mm) by 150 feet (45.720 mm) in distance in either axis in order to create opportunities for fire department smoke ventilation operations.

            2. Smoke ventilation options between array sections shall be one of the following:

            2.1. A pathway six feet (1829 mm) or greater in width.

            2.2. A three foot (914 mm) or greater in width pathway and bordering roof skylights or smoke and heat vents when required by Section 910.2.1 or Section 910.2.2 of this Code.

            2.3. Smoke and heat vents designed for remote operation using devices that can be connected to the vent by mechanical, electrical, or any other suitable means, shall be protected as necessary to remain operable for the design period. Controls for remote operation shall be located in a control panel, clearly identified and located in an approved location."

For Additional Information, contact your Local Fire District or the Utah State Fire Marshall's Office.

 

 

 

 

________

Website content provided by Utah Clean Energy, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to stop energy waste, create clean energy, and build a smart energy future in Utah and the western United States.