Building Codes & Standards: Photoluminescence
IFC Codes : photoluminescent paints & markings

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IFC Codes & Photoluminescent Paints

What Is ICC, What Are IFC Codes, And Why Should I Care?
The International Code Council (ICC) was established in 1994 as a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes used throughout the United States. It is dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. ICC codes that are relevant to the application and maintenance of photoluminescent paints, materials and signs, include: the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Fire Code (IFC) that this page is about. The International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) are two of the most widely accepted codes in North America; all 50 states have adopted a version of the IBC and at least 42 states have adopted a version of the IFC. Since 2009 the IFC Code stipulates that luminous markings are required for all doors, steps, landings, handrails, perimeters, and obstacles. The IFC regulations are enforced by building inspectors and fire code officials and are subject to fines and penalties. When a building does not meet these regulations, liabilty exposure increases in case of accidents on the premises. Read more about ICC and other organizations involved in new building codes and standards >>
IFC Codes (International Fire Codes)
The International Fire Code, or IFC (incl. IFC 2009 and IFC2012), is a state-of-the-art model code used as the basis for fire regulations promulgated and enforced by U.S. state and local jurisdictions. Those jurisdictions have the option of incorporating some or all of the code’s provisions but generally adopt most provisions. Some of these standards pertain to the use of evacuation technology. Evacuation and egress systems are required to use photoluminescent markings to indicate exit routes in specifically standardized ways. Future buildings—especially tall structures—should be increasingly resistant to fire, more easily evacuated in emergencies, and safer overall thanks to 23 major and far-reaching building and fire code changes approved in 2009 by the International Code Council (ICC) and in part laid down in the IFC 2009 Fire Code. These changes include making exit path markings more prevalent and more visible by applying photoluminescent paints and exit markings for egress purposes.
IFC Code Specifications for Photoluminescent (Phosphorescent) Safety Markings (IFC2009 & IFC2012)
The ICC has adopted the following practical changes to the IFC with regards to photoluminescent exit markings as found in chapter 10:
  • 1024.1 General. Approved luminous egress path markings delineating the exit path shall be provided in buildings of Groups A, B, E, I, M and R-1 having occupied floors located more than 75 feet (22 860 mm) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access in accordance with Sections 1024.1 through 1024.5.
  • 4604.1 General. Means of egress in existing buildings shall comply with the minimum egress requirements when specified in Table 4603.1 as further enumerated in Sections 4604.2 through 4604.21, and the building code that applied at the time of construction. Where the provisions conflict, the most restrictive provision shall apply. Existing buildings that were not required to comply with a building code at the time of construction shall comply with the minimum egress requirements when specified in Table 4603.1 as further enumerated in Sections 4604.2 through 4604.21 and, in addition, shall have a life safety evaluation prepared, consistent with the requirements of Section 104.7.2. The life safety evaluation shall identify any changes to the means of egress that are necessary to provide safe egress to occupants and shall be subject to review and approval by the fire code official. The building shall be modified to comply with the recommendations set forth in the approved evaluation.
  • 4604.22 in the Fire Code requires the retroactive installation of luminous egress path markings in Group A, B, E, I, M and R-1 occupancies with occupied floors located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
These provisions are closely related to mentions of photoluminescent safety markings in the IBC Code 2009, altered at the same time:
  • Luminous markings delineating the exit path (including vertical exit enclosures and passageways) in buildings more than 75 feet high should be applied to facilitate rapid egress and full building evacuation.
  • The use of luminous markings should be broadend to identify obstacles, exit doors, exit signs and floor numbers in the exit path in buildings more than 75 feet high.
  • Luminous exit path markings in existing buildings more than 75 feet high should be incorporated with the exception of open, unenclosed stairs in historic buildings.
Other changes address areas such as increasing structural resistance to building collapse from fire and other incidents; requiring a third exit stairway for tall buildings; increasing the width of all stairways by 50 percent in new high-rises; strengthening criteria for the bonding, proper installation and inspection of sprayed fire-resistive materials (commonly known as “fireproofing”); improving the reliability of active fire protection systems (i.e., automatic sprinklers); requiring a new class of robust elevators for access by emergency responders, and ensuring effective coverage throughout a building for emergency responder radio communications.

One of the very few industrial photoluminescent paint suppliers that does meets IFC Code requirements in it's products is Kryptaglow.
IFC Codes directly affect you, if you are a:
  • Building owner
  • Fire Fighter
  • Developer
  • Architect
  • Engineer
  • Maintenance manager
  • Facility manager
  • Painter
  • ...
What is NIST and how does it relate to the IFC Codes
NIST is one of the nation's oldest physical science laboratories. It was founded in 1901 and is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The building and fire research programs at NIST anticipate and meet the measurement and technology needs of the U.S. building and fire safety industries. NIST research focusses specifically on disaster-resilient structures. Following 9-11, NIST lead the Federal Investigation into the Collapse of the World Trade Center. In it's final report the federal commission recommended a complete reevaluation of egress systems and incorporation of appropriate egress technology. The IFC Code (and IBC Code) changes adopted by the ICC, closely follow the findings of NIST's WTC disaster investigation.Read more about NIST and other organizations involved in new building codes and standards >>

It is of the utmost importance that the photoluminescent materials or paints used in your building are tested accordingly to meet the new standards and meet all requirements of the new building codes.

For this reason one should consider a tested and approved photoluminescent paint supplier such as Kryptaglow: See Certification Info >>.
More about building codes and standards in relation to photoluminescent paints & markings