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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 13. Housing
Agency 5. Department Of Housing And Community Development
Chapter 51. Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code
9/28/2021

13VAC5-51-138.1. IFC Chapter 12 Energy Systems.

A. Make the following changes to Section 1201, General.

1. Change Sections 1201.1 and 1201.2 to read:

1201.1 Scope. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to the operation and maintenance of energy systems used for generating or storing energy. It shall not apply to equipment associated with the generation, control, transformation, transmission, or distribution of energy installations that is under the exclusive control of an electric utility or lawfully designated agency.

1201.2 Electrical wiring and equipment. Electrical wiring and equipment used in connection with energy systems shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 12, NFPA 70 and the applicable building code.

2. Delete Section 1201.3.

B. Make the following changes to Section 1203, Emergency and Standby Power Systems.

1. Change Sections 1203.1 and 1203.1.1 to read:

1203.1 General. Emergency power systems and standby power systems shall comply with Sections 1203.1.1 through 1203.1.9.

1203.1.1 Generators. Emergency and standby power generators shall be listed.

2. Change Sections 1203.1.2 and 1203.1.3 to read:

1203.1.2 Fuel line piping protection. Fuel lines supplying a generator set inside a high-rise building shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code. Fire resistance ratings shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 7.

1203.1.3 Installation. Emergency power systems and standby power systems shall be approved in accordance with the applicable building code.

3. Change Section 1203.1.4 to read:

1203.1.4 Load transfer. Emergency power systems shall automatically provide secondary power within 10 seconds after primary power is lost unless specified otherwise by the applicable building code. Standby power systems shall automatically provide secondary power within 60 seconds after primary power is lost unless specified otherwise by the applicable building code.

4. Change Section 1203.1.5 to read:

1203.1.5 Load duration. Emergency power systems and standby power systems shall be maintained to provide the required power for the minimum duration specified in the applicable building code without being refueled or recharged.

5. Change Section 1203.1.6 to read:

1203.1.6 Uninterruptable power source. An uninterrupted source of power shall be provided for equipment where required by the manufacturer's instructions, the listing, the applicable building code, or the applicable referenced standards.

6. Change Section 1203.1.7 to read:

1203.1.7 Interchangeability. Emergency power systems shall be an acceptable alternative for installations that require standby power systems when permitted by the applicable building code.

7. Delete Section 1203.1.8.

8. Change Section 1203.1.9 to read:

1203.1.9 Maintenance. Existing installations shall be maintained in accordance with the original approval and Section 1203.4.

9. Change Section 1203.2 to read:

1203.2 Specific equipment requirements. Emergency and standby power systems shall be maintained in accordance with Sections 1203.2.1 through 1203.2.18.

10. Change Section 1203.2.2 to read:

1203.2.2 Elevators and platform lifts. Standby power shall be maintained for elevators and platform lifts as required in Sections 606.2, 1009.4.1, and 1009.5.

11. Change Section 1203.2.3 to read:

1203.2.3 Emergency responder radio coverage systems. Standby power shall be maintained for emergency responder radio coverage systems in accordance with Section 510 and the applicable building code. Where specified in the applicable building code, the standby power supply shall be capable of operating the emergency responder radio coverage system at 100% system operation capacity for the duration specified in the applicable building code.

12. Change Section 1203.2.4 to read:

1203.2.4 Emergency voice or alarm communication systems. Emergency power shall be maintained for emergency voice or alarm communication systems as required by the applicable building code. The system shall be capable of powering the required load for a duration of not less than 24 hours, as required in NFPA 72.

13. Change Section 1203.2.5 to read:

1203.2.5 Exit signs. Emergency power for exit signs shall be capable of powering the required load for a duration of not less than 90 minutes unless otherwise specified by the applicable building code.

14. Change Section 1203.2.6 to read:

1203.2.6 Gas detection systems. Emergency power and standby power shall be maintained for gas detection systems in accordance with the applicable building code.

15. Change Section 1203.2.7 to read:

1203.2.7 Group I-2 occupancies. Essential electrical systems required by the applicable building code for Group I-2 occupancies shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70.

16. Change Section 1203.2.8 to read:

1203.2.8 Group I-3 occupancies. Where power-operated sliding doors or power-operated locks for swinging doors in Group I-3 occupancies are operable by a manual release mechanism at the door, and emergency power provided or required by the applicable building code, they shall be maintained.

17. Change Section 1203.2.9 to read:

1203.2.9 Hazardous materials. Emergency and standby power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 in occupancies with hazardous materials when required by the applicable building code.

18. Change Section 1203.2.10 to read:

1203.2.10 High-rise buildings. Standby power and emergency power shall be maintained for high-rise buildings in accordance with Section 1203 and the applicable building code.

19. Change Section 1203.2.11 to read:

1203.2.11 Horizontal sliding doors. Standby power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 for horizontal sliding doors as required by the applicable building code. The standby power supply shall have a capacity to operate not fewer than 50 closing cycles of the door unless otherwise specified by the applicable building code.

20. Change Section 1203.2.12 to read:

1203.2.12 Hydrogen fuel gas rooms. Standby power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 for hydrogen fuel gas rooms as required by the applicable building code.

21. Change Section 1203.2.13 to read:

1203.2.13 Laboratory suites. Standby or emergency power shall be maintained for laboratory suites in accordance with Section 1203 and the applicable building code.

22. Change Section 1203.2.14 to read:

1203.2.14 Means of egress illumination. Emergency power shall be maintained for means of egress illumination in accordance with the applicable building code.

23. Change Section 1203.2.15 to read:

1203.2.15 Membrane structures. Standby power shall be maintained for auxiliary inflation systems in permanent membrane structures in accordance with applicable building code. Auxiliary inflation systems shall be provided in temporary air-supported and air-inflated membrane structures in accordance with Section 3103.10.4.

24. Change Section 1203.2.16 to read:

1203.2.16 Semiconductor fabrication facilities. Emergency power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 for semiconductor fabrication facilities as required by the applicable building code.

25. Change Section 1203.2.17 to read:

1203.2.17 Smoke control systems. Standby power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 for smoke control as required by the applicable building code.

26. Change Section 1203.2.18 to read:

1203.2.18 Underground buildings. Emergency and standby power shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 in underground buildings as required by the applicable building code.

27. Change Section 1203.3 to read:

1203.3 Critical circuits. Cables used for survivability of required critical circuits shall be listed. Electrical circuit protective systems shall be maintained in accordance with their listing requirements.

28. Change Section 1203.4 to read:

1203.4 Maintenance. Emergency and standby power systems shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70, NFPA 110, and NFPA 111 so that the system is capable of supplying service within the time specified for the type and duration required in accordance with the applicable building code.

29. Change Section 1203.5 to read:

1203.5 Operational inspection and testing. Emergency power systems, including all appurtenant components, shall be inspected and tested under load in accordance with NFPA 110, NFPA 70, and NFPA 111.

Exception: Where the emergency power system is used for standby power or peak load shaving, such use shall be recorded and shall be allowed to be substituted for scheduled testing of the generator set, provided that appropriate records are maintained.

30. Add Section 1203.7 to read:

1203.7 Testing of battery powered emergency lights and exit signs. Required emergency lighting utilizing battery powered emergency lights, exit signs, or both shall be tested annually. The emergency lights and exit signs shall be tested for proper operation for the time period established in the building code in effect when the equipment was installed. Written records of tests shall be retained by the owner of the building for a minimum of two years after the test is conducted and shall be made available to the fire code official upon request.

C. Make the following changes to Section 1204, Solar Photovoltaic Power Systems.

1. Change Section 1204.1 to read:

1204.1 General. Solar photovoltaic power systems shall be maintained in accordance with Sections 1204.2 through 1204.5 and the applicable building code.

2. Change Section 1204.2 to read:

1204.2 Access and pathways. Roof access, pathways, and spacing requirements shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code. Pathways shall remain capable of supporting the loads required by the applicable building code. Pathways shall be maintained unobstructed and free from vent pipes, conduit or mechanical equipment unless otherwise approved in accordance with the applicable building code. Exceptions: 1. Detached, nonhabitable Group U structures including, but not limited to, detached garages serving Group R-3 buildings, parking shade structures, carports, solar trellises and similar structures.

2. Roof access, pathways and spacing requirements need not be provided where the fire code official has determined that rooftop operations will not be employed.

3. Delete Section 1204.3.3 and change Section 1204.2.1 to read:

1204.2.1 Roof access points. Roof access points shall be maintained in areas that do not require placement of ground ladders over openings such as windows or doors and located at strong points of building construction in locations where the access point does not conflict with overhead obstructions such as tree limbs, wires, or signs.

4. Change Section 1204.4 to read:

1204.4 Ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays. A clear, brush-free area of 10 feet (3048 mm) shall be maintained for ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays.

D. Make the following changes to Section 1205, Stationary Fuel Cell Power Systems.

1. Change Section 1205.1 to read:

1205.1 General. Stationary fuel cell power systems shall be maintained in accordance with this section and the applicable building code.

2. Delete Sections 1205.2 and 1205.3.

3. Change Section 1205.4 to read:

1205.4 Maintenance. Installation of stationary fuel cell power systems shall be approved by the building official and shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code, NFPA 70 and NFPA 853, the manufacturer's instructions, and the listing. Stationary fuel cell power systems fueled by hydrogen shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code, NFPA 2 and NFPA 70, the manufacturer's installation instructions, and the listing.

4. Delete Sections 1205.6.1, 1205.6.2, and 1205.13.1 and change Sections 1205.5, 1205.6, and 1205.8 through 1205.13 to read:

1205.5 Residential use. Stationary fuel cell power systems shall not be operated in Group R-3, R-4 and R-5 buildings or dwelling units associated with Group R-2 buildings unless they are specifically listed for residential use and approved in accordance with the applicable building code.

1205.6 Indoor installations. Stationary fuel cell power systems operated in indoor locations shall be specifically listed and labeled for indoor use and comply with the applicable building code. For purposes of this section, an indoor location includes a roof and 50% or greater enclosing walls.

1205.8 Outdoor installation. Separation required by the applicable building code for outdoor stationary fuel cell power systems shall be maintained from the following:

1. Lot lines.

2. Public ways.

3. Buildings.

4. Stored combustible materials.

5. Hazardous materials.

6. High-piled stock.

7. Any portion of a designated means of egress system.

8. Other exposure hazards.

1205.9 Fuel supply. The fuel supply for stationary fuel cell power systems shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 53, Chapter 58, and the applicable building code and based on the particular fuel being supplied to the system.

1205.10 Manual shutoff. Access to a manual shutoff valves shall not be obstructed. Manual shutoff valves shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code.

1205.11 Ventilation and exhaust. Ventilation and exhaust for stationary fuel cell power systems shall be operated and maintained in accordance with NFPA 853 and the applicable building code.

1205.12 Fire suppression. Fire suppression for stationary fuel cell power systems shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 9 and NFPA 853.

1205.13 Gas detection systems. Gas detection systems for stationary fuel cell power systems shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 9 and the applicable building code.

E. Make the following changes to Section 1206, Electric Storage Energy Systems.

1. Change Section 1206.2 to read:

1206.2 Stationary storage battery systems. Stationary storage battery systems having capacities exceeding the values indicated in the applicable building code or technologies not listed therein shall be approved by the building official. Stationary storage battery systems shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code.

2. Delete Sections 1206.2.1 through 1206.2.4, including Table 1206.2, and change Section 1206.2.7 to read:

1206.2.7 Testing, maintenance, and repair. Storage batteries and associated equipment and systems shall be tested and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and the applicable building code. Any storage batteries or system components used to replace existing units shall be compatible with the battery charger, energy management systems, other storage batteries, and other safety systems. Introducing other types of storage batteries into the stationary storage battery system or other types of electrolytes into flow battery systems shall be treated as a new installation and require approval by the building official before the replacements are introduced into service.]

3. Delete Sections 1206.2.8 through 1206.2.8.4 and change Sections 1206.2.8.5, 1206.2.8.5.1, and 1206.2.8.7 through 1206.2.8.7.2 to read:

1206.2.8.5 Occupied work centers. Where stationary storage batteries are located in an occupied work center, they shall remain housed in a noncombustible cabinet or other approved enclosure where required by the applicable building code to prevent access by unauthorized personnel.

1206.2.8.5.1 Cabinets. Unless otherwise required by the applicable building code, where stationary batteries are contained in cabinets in occupied work centers, the cabinet enclosures shall remain located within 10 feet (3048 mm) of the equipment that they support.

1206.2.8.7 Outdoor installations. Stationary storage battery systems located outdoors shall be approved in accordance with the applicable building code and maintained in accordance with this Chapter.

1206.2.8.7.1 Separation. Separation required by the applicable building code for stationary storage battery systems shall be maintained from the following:

1. Lot lines.

2. Public ways.

3. Buildings.

4. Stored combustible materials.

5. Hazardous materials.

6. High-piled stock.

7. Other exposure hazards.

Exception: The fire code official is authorized to approve smaller separation distances if large scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory is provided showing that a fire involving the system will not adversely impact occupant egress from adjacent buildings, or adversely impact adjacent stored materials or structures.

1206.2.8.7.2 Means of egress. Separation distances of outdoor stationary storage battery systems to means of egress required by the applicable building code shall be maintained.

4. Delete Sections 1206.2.9.1, 1206.2.11.1, 1206.2.11.1.1, 1206.2.11.2, 1206.2.11.3.1, 1206.2.11.3.2, 1206.2.11.4, and 1206.2.11.4.1, including Table 1206.2.9 and change Sections 1206.2.9, 1206.2.10 through 1206.2.11, 1206.2.11.3, 1206.2.12.1, 1206.2.12.2, 1206.2.12.4, 1206.2.12.5, and 1206.2.12.6 to read:

1206.2.9 Maximum allowable quantities. Fire areas within buildings containing stationary storage battery systems exceeding the maximum allowable quantities indicated in the applicable building code shall comply with the applicable building code requirements for Group H occupancies. Where a maximum allowable quantity is not listed in the applicable building code, quantities must be approved by the building official.

1206.2.10 Storage batteries and equipment. The maintenance of storage batteries and related equipment shall comply with Sections 1206.2.10.1 through 1206.2.10.8.

1206.2.10.1 Listings. Where required by the applicable building code, storage batteries and battery storage systems shall be listed.

Exception: Lead-acid batteries are not required to be listed.

1206.2.10.2 Prepackaged and pre-engineered systems. Prepackaged and pre-engineered stationary storage battery systems shall be maintained in accordance with their listing and the manufacturer's instructions.

1206.2.10.3 Energy management system. Where provided or required by the applicable building code, approved energy management systems for battery technologies other than lead-acid and nickel cadmium shall be operated and maintained within the manufacturer's specifications for monitoring and balancing cell voltages, currents, and temperatures. Systems that transmit an alarm signal to an approved location in accordance with the applicable building code if potentially hazardous temperatures or other conditions, such as short circuits, over voltage, or under voltage are detected, shall be maintained.

1206.2.10.4 Battery chargers. Unless otherwise required by the applicable building code, battery chargers shall be compatible with the battery chemistry and the manufacturer's electrical ratings and charging specifications. Battery chargers shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 1564 or provided as part of a listed pre-engineered or prepackaged stationary storage battery system.

1206.2.10.5 Inverters. Where required by the applicable building code, inverters shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 1741. Only inverters listed and labeled for utility interactive system use and identified as interactive shall be allowed to operate in parallel with the electric utility power system to supply power to common loads.

1206.2.10.6 Safety caps. Flame-arresting safety caps for vented batteries, provided or required in accordance with the applicable building code shall be maintained.

1206.2.10.7 Thermal runaway. Storage batteries provided with a listed device or other approved method to prevent, detect, and control thermal runaway in accordance with the applicable building code shall be maintained.

1206.2.10.8 Toxic and highly toxic gas. Stationary storage battery systems that have the potential to release toxic and highly toxic gas during charging, discharging, and normal use conditions shall comply with Chapter 60 and the applicable building code.

1206.2.11 Fire-extinguishing and detection systems. Fire-extinguishing and detection systems shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 9 and the applicable building code.

1206.2.11.3 Ventilation. Ventilation of rooms containing stationary storage battery systems shall be operated and maintained in accordance with the applicable building code.

Where cabinets contain storage batteries and are located in occupied spaces are required by the applicable building code to be provided with ventilation, the ventilation shall be operated and maintained. Where supervision of ventilation systems is provided or required by the applicable building code, it shall be maintained.

1206.2.12.1 Lead-acid storage batteries. Stationary storage battery systems utilizing lead-acid storage batteries shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code and the following:

Ventilation shall be operated and maintained in accordance with Section 1206.2.11

Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 1206.2.

Thermal runaway protection shall be maintained for valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) storage batteries in accordance with Section 1206.2.10.7.

The signage in Section 1206.2.8.6 shall indicate the room contains lead-acid batteries.

1206.2.12.2 Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) storage batteries. Stationary storage battery systems utilizing nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) storage batteries shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code and the following:

Ventilation shall be operated and maintained in accordance with Section 1206.2.11.

Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 1206.2.

Thermal runaway protection shall be provided for valve-regulated sealed nickel-cadmium storage batteries in accordance with Section 1206.2.10.7.

The signage in Section 1206.2.8.6 shall indicate the room contains nickel-cadmium batteries.

1206.2.12.4 Sodium-beta storage batteries. Stationary storage battery systems utilizing sodium-beta storage batteries shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code and the following:

Ventilation shall be operated and maintained in accordance with Section 1206.2.11.

The signage in Section 1206.2.8.6 shall indicate the type of sodium batteries in the room and include the instructions, "APPLY NO WATER."

1206.2.12.5 Flow storage batteries. Stationary storage battery systems utilizing flow storage batteries shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code and the following:

Ventilation shall be operated and maintained in accordance with Section 1206.2.11.

Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 1206.2.

The signage required in Section 1206.2.8.6 shall indicate the type of flow batteries in the room.

1206.2.12.6 Other battery technologies. Stationary storage battery systems utilizing battery technologies other than those described in Sections 1206.2.12.1 through 1206.2.12.5 shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code and the following:

Gas detection systems shall be provided where required by the applicable building code and maintained in accordance with Chapter 9. Mechanical ventilation shall be operated and maintained in accordance with Section 1206.2.11.

Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 1206.2.

In addition to the signage required in Section 1206.2.8.6, the marking shall identify the type of batteries present, describe the potential hazards associated with the battery type, and indicate that the room contains energized electrical circuits.

5. Change Sections 1206.3 and 1206.3.2.6 through 1206.3.2.6.2 to read:

1206.3 Capacitor energy storage systems. Capacitor energy storage systems having capacities exceeding 3 kWh (10.8 megajoules) shall comply with Sections 1206.3 through 1206.3.2.6.1.

Exception: Capacitors regulated by NFPA 70, Chapter 460, and capacitors included as a component part of other listed electrical equipment are not required to comply with this section.

1206.3.2.6 Outdoor installation. Capacitor energy systems located outdoors shall be approved in accordance with the applicable building code and maintained in accordance with Chapter 12.

1206.3.2.6.1 Separation. Separation required by the applicable building code for capacitor energy systems shall be maintained from the following:

1. Lot lines.

2. Public ways

3. Buildings.

4. Stored combustible materials.

5. Hazardous materials.

6. High-piled stock.

7. Other exposure hazards.

Exception: The fire code official is authorized to approve lesser separation distances if large-scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory is provided showing that a fire involving the system will not adversely impact occupant egress from adjacent buildings, or adversely impact adjacent stored materials or structures.

1206.3.2.6.2 Means of egress. Separation distances of capacitor energy systems to means of egress required by the applicable building code shall be maintained.

6. Delete Sections 1206.3.1 through 1206.3.2.3.

7. Delete Sections 1206.3.5.1, 1206.3.5.1.1, 1206.3.5.2, and 1206.3.5.3.1 and change Sections 1206.3.3 through 1206.3.4.3, 1206.3.5, and 1206.3.5.3 to read:

1206.3.3 Maximum allowable quantities. Fire areas within buildings containing capacitor energy storage systems that exceed the maximum energy capacity indicated in the applicable building code shall comply with the applicable building code requirements for Group H occupancies. Where a maximum energy capacity is not listed in the applicable building code, quantities must be approved by the building official.

1206.3.4 Capacitors and equipment. The operation and maintenance of capacitor energy storage systems and related equipment shall comply with Sections 1206.3.4.1 through 1206.3.4.5.

1206.3.4.1 Listing. Where required by the applicable building code, capacitors and capacitor energy storage systems shall be listed in accordance with the applicable building code.

1206.3.4.2 Prepackaged and pre-engineered systems. In addition to other applicable requirements of this code, prepackaged and pre-engineered capacitor energy storage systems shall be maintained in accordance with their listing and the manufacturer’s instructions.

1206.3.4.3 Energy management system. Where provided or required by the applicable building code, approved energy management systems shall be operated and maintained within the manufacturer’s specifications for monitoring and balancing cell voltages, currents and temperatures. Systems that transmit an alarm signal to an approved location in accordance with the applicable building code if potentially hazardous temperatures or other conditions, such as short circuits, over voltage, or under voltage are detected, shall be maintained.

1206.3.5 Fire-extinguishing and detection systems. Fire-extinguishing and smoke detection systems provided or required by the applicable building code in capacitor energy storage system rooms shall be maintained in accordance with Chapter 9.

1206.3.5.3 Ventilation. Ventilation of rooms containing capacitor energy storage systems shall be operated and maintained in accordance with the applicable building code.

Where supervision of ventilation systems is provided or required by the applicable building code, it shall be maintained.

8. Change Section 1206.3.6 to read:

1206.3.6 Testing, maintenance, and repair. Capacitors and associated equipment and systems shall be tested maintained and repaired in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and the applicable building code.

Statutory Authority

§ 27-97 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 37, Issue 20, eff. July 1, 2021.

Website addresses provided in the Virginia Administrative Code to documents incorporated by reference are for the reader's convenience only, may not necessarily be active or current, and should not be relied upon. To ensure the information incorporated by reference is accurate, the reader is encouraged to use the source document described in the regulation.

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