What Are The Most Common Commercial Building Structure Violations In The US?

Commercial Building Structure Violations

Commercial building structure violations can cost property owners a lot in fines. Hence, property owners must stay aware of the most common violations and follow federal and state building codes.


15 Common Commercial Building Structure Violations

Engineers are required to comply strictly with commercial building codes for several reasons. Apart from simply avoiding penalties, these codes are in place to ensure no compromises in a building’s structural integrity. They also protect the health and welfare of those occupying the building.

Most states adhere to the International Code Council’s building codes. They contain guidelines for new buildings, residential townhouses, and family homes. Moreover, they even regulate existing buildings’ repairs, additions, and alterations.

If the authorities find that a commercial building is not up to code, they will impose fines. They may also deem the building uninhabitable and close the commercial building altogether. In some cases, those responsible for or relevant to the structure may even end up in jail.

What are the most common building code violations in the United States? Here are the most common and most important ones to look out for.


1. Improper Smoke Alarm Placement

Building codes place great importance on fire safety. However, despite its importance to a construction’s overall security and habitability, many still make commercial building structure violations related to it.

One of the most common ones involves improper smoke alarm placement. Engineers who work on commercial building construction projects must have smoke alarms on every level of the structure.

Building codes also mandate that ceiling-mounted smoke alarms be at least four inches from the nearby walls. Meanwhile, wall-mounted alarms must be at least four inches down from ceilings. Commercial buildings that do not adhere to these standards violate building codes.


2. Missing or Defective Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

Defective Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)Outdoor outlets and circuits in kitchens, bathrooms, and garages need GFCIs for proper protection. These GFCIs cut power circuits if they notice an existing active charge. This prevents people from suffering from dangerous electrical shocks.

Moreover, these GFCIs must not only be present, but they must also be in proper working condition. Building code inspectors will look for these GFCIs and use receptacle testers to detect reverse polarity, open grounds, and other wiring issues.


3. Faulty Joints and Beams

Many commercial building code violations involve failing to use joints or beams that adequately provide proper bearing. The violations often involve beams not the proper size for the load.

However, this violation is more common in renovation projects. It often happens when renovators attempt to remove internal walls to make more room. If you plan to remove an interior wall, conduct a structural analysis first to avoid this violation.


4. Inoperable Emergency Escapes and Rescue Openings

Attics, basements, and bedrooms must have at least one emergency escape and rescue opening. If a commercial building’s basement contains sleeping rooms, each room must have a rescue opening and emergency escape.

This violation may sound uncommon — and it is when it comes to most commercial buildings. However, building code inspectors often find these openings only partially functional. Some may also find them to be completely inoperable.


5. Inadequate Steps, Ladders, and Window Wells

Window wells need to be at least 9 square feet horizontally. Their horizontal projection and width must also be at least 36 inches. This allows window wells to facilitate emergency escapes and rescue operations.

Moreover, window wells with over 44 inches in vertical depth need to have a permanent ladder affixed to them. Property owners may also use steps. However, these steps must be usable when the window is fully opened.


6. Unprotected Penetrations and Openings of Smoke/Fire Rated Partitions and Barriers

Fire protection involves more than just installing smoke alarms. Engineers must also compartmentalize using smoke-rated partitions and barriers. This prevents the movement of smoke and fire from one area to another.

Property owners need to ensure that these openings are protected. This is because unprotected openings can undermine the building code’s objective and compromise safety in the event of a fire.


7. Insufficient Exit Capacity

The exits of any commercial building must have ample capacity so the occupants can quickly exit the building during a fire. This involves the exit doorways, ample stairs, and other pathways.


8. Inappropriate Storage in Riser Rooms and Fire Pump

Every building needs a fire pump to ensure the sprinkler system can pump out enough water during a fire. Moreover, they need a fire riser so firefighters can quickly extinguish fires. A commercial building must not only have these facilities available but also have their rooms free of debris.


9. Blocked Valves and Exterior Fire Department Connections

Firefighters must link their hoses to exterior fire department connections (FDCs). They use fire department hose connections on the upper floors to control water flow. Property owners must make sure that nothing is blocking these valves. Otherwise, firefighters may be unable to access these FDCs and control the fire.


10. Incorrect Circuit Box Labeling

The circuit box might be the last thing a property owner thinks. However, it’s essential to properly label them even if property owners are not working on the electrical systems themselves. If they cannot do it independently, they can hire a professional to identify each switch and label them.


11. Inappropriate Balcony Railings

Property owners must also be wary of commercial building structure violations involving balcony railings. The railings must be compliant with the requirements and restrictions involving materials.


Air Pockets Insulation12. Lack of Air Pockets Insulation

Windows, vents, walls, and electrical wear all need proper insulation. Otherwise, air may seep through broken seals, holes, and cracks. These insulation issues can lead to air pockets that result in significant electrical and energy costs. Property owners must check and air seal every door, window, ductwork, or other structure with holes in the walls to avoid this violation.


13. Damaged or Missing Fire Equipment

Fire extinguishers need to be in proper working order at all times. Property owners must periodically check them and make sure they are working and in the proper place.

Apart from fire extinguishers, property owners must also ensure that other fire systems and equipment are operational. This includes everything from fire alarms to pull stations and smoke detectors. Property owners must check their batteries and ensure the equipment is not obsolete.


14. Not Following Manufacturer’s Instructions

Construction workers must always be well-trained and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using materials. For instance, the workers hired to install a window may use the wrong fasteners. This can lead to a violation and compromise the building’s overall safety.


15. Use of Improper Materials

Developers and property owners may be tempted to cut costs using low-quality materials. However, these materials often do not meet local requirements and standards.


Avoid Commercial Building Structure Violations

Property owners need to avoid commercial building structure violations at all costs. Otherwise, they may face monetary fines, leading to substantial financial losses. These violations also have devastating consequences that can cost money and lives.

Maintenance Specialists Inc. offers industry-leading building and facilities maintenance services. Call us today at 704.405.6000 or contact us online for more information!



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