By RYAN SPENCER
If you apply spray foam insulation, particularly in commercial applications, a day may come when you get a phone call, and the person on the other end will be a code official or fire marshal. Chances are, they’ll be looking for details about a project you did months or years ago–are you confident you’ll be prepared to answer the call?
In the past few years, a change has taken place in municipalities nationwide. Code officials and fire marshals are taking a closer look at fire protective coatings applied over SPF insulation, and enforcing compliance is at the top of their agenda. This hasn’t always been the case, as lax enforcement was fairly common in some jurisdictions, due to the nature of keeping up with and understanding changing building codes. More recently, a growing implementation of new building codes and a new crop of code officials have resulted in a crackdown of sorts on compliance with fire protective coatings. Contractors who may have been used to some leeway with regard to compliance are now being faced with a more demanding business environment.
“They are being held to a higher standard now than they were a year ago, and generally that’s happening from the fire marshal or code official–we’re seeing it across the whole nation,” said Gary Wolfe, Executive Vice President of International Fireproof Technology Inc. (IFTI).
In situations where code requirements aren’t clear or where enforcement is minimal, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some applications aren’t fully compliant. In some cases, a compliant bid for a particular job might be competing with a cheaper non-compliant bid, and it has often been the case that the cheaper bid gets the job. Due to recent enforcement efforts, that situation is changing, which stands to not only ensure the compliance of future projects, but also verify the compliance (or non-compliance) of older applications. Now, code officials and fire marshals may make a point to also investigate a building’s existing foam insulation if they’re already inspecting something else, like electrical work or fire exits.
“They just can’t help but look up and see the foam, and now they’re asking, ‘What did you do to protect that foam?’” said Wolfe. “It’s really not unfair of them to ask the question, and you’re expected to know the answer from even one or two years ago.”
For contractors, it can be understandably problematic to field inquiries about an older job, even if the coating was installed to compliance, because the ability to verify the details with a code official hinges on proper documentation. More often than not, the paperwork isn’t sufficient, or entirely absent, so the code official winds up contacting anybody that might have that information, from the GC to the coating manufacturer. If the facts are still unclear, contractors can be faced with returning to the job site to redo the application.
“Callbacks are the most expensive part of any contractor’s life,” said Wolfe. “How are you going to protect yourself next week, next month, or next year if someone calls and asked about what happened on a job?”
After receiving a number of inquiries from fact-deprived code officials looking to verify the details of projects that had used its widely installed DC315 coating, IFTI recognized a market need for a way to not only make code officials’ jobs easier, but also protect contractors and mitigate the threat of callbacks. In addressing these needs, IFTI sought to educate contractors about code-compliant coating applications and how to effectively document every job via a formalized process, and so the company began developing its Certified Applicator Program (CAP), which launched in April 2015.
“We really just went for it. We worked very hard on it for a long time to develop the methodology,” said Wolfe. “An important part of our program is how to document, so a lot of what it emphasizes is before and after the job.”
Consisting of six video-based educational modules, the CAP program covers everything from product and technical knowledge to code compliance and assurance. The program is accessible online, as is the assessment test that determines whether or not a contractor receives their CAP certificate. Once they’ve earned CAP certification, contractors are featured in an interactive map on IFTI’s website that helps prospective customers or code officials locate and contact applicators in their area. Wolfe noted that within the first week after the program’s launch, certified applicators bid on and were awarded jobs worth tens of thousands of dollars.
“The big thing is that we’re trying to put contractors in contact with customers who are looking for a qualified person to do a job where price isn’t the first consideration, but life safety is the primary concern,” he said. “What we’re finding is that once a fire marshal or code official inspects a certified applicator, the expectation is that all jobs in their area are done by certified applicators.”
The notion that certified applicators are becoming the go-to option among code officials is certainly a boon for contractors looking to ensure they’re complying with the latest building codes relating to fire protective coatings. In fact, Wolfe has noticed a growing sentiment among certified applicators that it’s really no longer the case that they’d lose out on a job when competing with a cheaper non-complying bid.
“They’re finding that they now have the opportunity to educate someone who will opt to go with the right applicator,” Wolfe said. “It’s demystifying the whole process.”
The program’s benefits are fairly obvious for applicators, but it also offers code officials the opportunity to become more familiar with determining if best practices were followed for a given fire protective coating application.
“We did not expect to have a rapidly growing number of fire marshals and code officials that are going through the process and taking the exam,” said Wolfe. “I’ve been contacted by one state office where they’re going to require, or at least send out a soft request, if you will, that all code officials and fire marshals take our test.”
The interest has been so overwhelming that IFTI is currently working with some code officials to develop a version of the CAP program specifically designed for compliance inspections. Furthermore, the CAP program has also peaked the interest of SPF manufacturers; Wolfe mentioned that several companies have contacted IFTI about incorporating the program into their annual conferences.
“We’re getting comments back like, ‘Where was this program three years ago?’” Wolfe said.
In just its first month, the CAP program saw more than 200 applicators earn their certification, and IFTI projects to hit 1,000 certified applicators within a year. In the long-term, IFTI is looking to leverage the scalability of the CAP program’s online platform to expand globally, with Canadian, Middle Eastern, European, and other international versions on the horizon. When that’s accomplished, applicators around the world will be able to confidently answer the call and prove that their applications are compliant.
Contact International Fireproof Technologies, Inc.
Direct any questions you have about the CAP program and code compliance for fire protective coatings to IFTI: