The Basics of New Hampshire Building and Fire Codes

Sarah Marchant, President of the New Hampshire Planners Association

Whether your municipality has building and fire inspectors on staff or not, there are state wide standards for both building and fire codes that every municipality and property owner must adhere to. The array of RSA’s and enabling rules which set the state codes, when they apply, what to do when they overlap, and how they can be appealed, can be confusing even for seasoned practitioners of the codes.

To counter the potential for misunderstanding, a subcommittee was established with representatives from the Fire Marshall’s Office, the NH Building Officials Association, the Building Code Review Board, the Association of Fire Chiefs, the Office of Energy and Planning, the NH Fire Prevention Society, and the NH Planners Association, to educate local building, fire, and planning officials, zoning boards, and municipal volunteers, on the building and life safety codes required by state law. The subcommittee created a factsheet outlining the current status of local and State fire and building codes in New Hampshire. This article explores some of the most common questions around the codes and enabling legislation supporting the current standards.

Q: What makes up the state building code?

A: The International Building Code 2009, the International Existing Building Code 2009, the International Plumbing Code 2009, the International Mechanical Code 2009, the International Energy Conservation Code 2009, and the International Residential Code 2009, as published by the International Code Council, and the National Electric Code 2011, as amended by the NH State Building Code Review Board. (RSA 155-A:1 (IV))

Q: What makes up the state fire code?

A: The Life Safety Code 2009, Saf-C 6000 Rules, and the Uniform Fire Code NFPA1, 2009 edition. (RSA 153)

Q: What do the building codes and fire codes apply to?

The building code applies to: All buildings, building components, and structures constructed in NH shall comply with the state building code and state fire code. The construction, design, structure, maintenance, and use of all buildings or structures to be erected and the alteration, renovation, rehabilitation, repair, removal or demolition of all buildings and structures previously erected shall be governed by the provisions of the state building code. (RSA 155-A:2)

The fire code applies to: All persons constructing, reconstructing, modifying, maintaining, or operating any structure. All owners or occupants of existing structures or premises shall comply with the requirements set forth in the State Fire Code “PART Saf-C 6008 through 6015” as adopted and amended by the State of NH except as amended in Sections 2 and 4, including all new construction and existing buildings, even if not in renovation. Pre-existing, occupied buildings are not exempted, but may not have to comply with standards for new construction.

Q: What is a local building code?

A: Counties, towns, cities and village districts may adopt by ordinance, pursuant to RSA 674:51 or RSA 47:22, any additional regulations provided that such regulations are not less stringent than the requirements of the state building code and state fire code. (RSA 155-A:2 (V)) The minimum requirements for all buildings and structures within the State of NH are those listed in the state building code and state fire code. A locality may adopt more stringent requirements only.

Q: What is a local fire code?

A: Municipalities may adopt local bylaws or ordinances in accordance with RSA 47:22 or RSA 155-A:3, provided that such regulations are more stringent than the requirements of the state building code and fire codes. (RSA 153:5)

For further information and who to contact with questions please refer to the full factsheet below.

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