This piece was originally published in the October 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Philip Caldwell, Edison Expert, External Affairs, Schneider Electric
The electrical industry is currently void of a consensus-developed transparent rationalization Standard for planning and implementing product-specific seismic qualification for building code compliance. Without one, this task ultimately defaults to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to sort out code compliance—a function that is most likely undertaken by those with no background or experience in electrical equipment.
A recently approved NEMA Strategic Initiative will inaugurate an Electrical Equipment Seismic Conformance Council (EESCC) to develop a roadmap and initiate an industry-developed Standard to define product-specific guidelines for compliance with the seismic provisions of commercial building codes.
The NEMA EESCC will:
- position NEMA Members to proactively lead and guide the seismic conformity assessment process of electrical equipment for commercial building code applications through the full product lifecycle;
- create a council of Members that are familiar with the market challenges as well as the technical challenges for conformance;
- establish a standards process for seismic compliance that can guide performance objectives of commercial building codes and adapt to future market-driven changes to them as they evolve;
- identify the best standards developing organization process, involvement, and structure; and
- initiate the development of an electrical industry Standard that is nationally recognized and accepted, including acceptance by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).
Launching an industry-recognized practice to qualify electrical equipment for compliance with seismic requirements found in commercial building codes may place NEMA as a leader in the entire electrical construction industry. This will reduce the cost of compliance with the seismic provisions of the International Building Code® (IBC) while increasing the confidence of compliance for all NEMA Members.
Benefits to Industry and Members
One long-term benefit would be a disciplined process for NEMA to maintain the role of “what to test” and proactively manage disruptive impacts of future building code changes. Another would be to defend against performance provisions being introduced that may not be feasible for electrical equipment.
New building code seismic development has just begun. As areas of the country move incrementally toward enforcement of building code seismic requirements, AHJs will be tasked with developing a process for accepting electrical equipment qualification. OSHPD is the first AHJ to fully enforce the seismic provisions of the U.S. commercial building code (ASCE/SEI 7 by reference) through the IBC construction quality deliverables of Chapter 17. As more AHJs move toward full enforcement, the what-to-test challenge will become defined by each AHJ repeatedly at maximum cost and minimum confidence.
The next cycle of ASCE/SEI 7 is underway, as is research into all aspects of code development and public policy to drive more widespread adoption and enforcement. All of these activities have far-reaching implications for NEMA Members. An appropriate Standard of care eliminates risk for building design professionals, installers, and AHJs and must be proactively addressed by NEMA before it becomes a significant market disrupter.
If we do not act, we will find our markets increasingly subjected to enforcement of rules instituted by others outside of our industry.