Maryland Legislators, Advocates Assemble to Make Buildings Safer
A huge 3-alarm fire in Rockville, MD, in April 2014, similar in nature to the devastating fire in Edgewater, NJ, which destroyed a 408-unit apartment building in January 2015, was front and center as delegates and advocates met on June 12 in the Maryland State Legislature’s Summer Study Session to discuss a bill restricting the use of lightweight, combustible building materials in the construction of multi-family residences. Chief Steve Lohr, chief of the Hagerstown, MD, Fire Department and retired chief of the Montgomery County, MD, Fire Department fought the Rockville fire and spoke at length to delegates about how out-of-control height and area limits have weakened the building code and allowed this style of construction to become unsafe.
"On behalf of fire departments everywhere, I am very happy to see that the concrete and steel industries are collaborating to fully identify current risks and reasonable solutions for Type-V, R2 construction. Assumptions regarding the height, area and fixed fire protection features in the codes have simply reached beyond the ability of most fire departments to be successful when fighting large fires in these structures. In the State of Maryland, their efforts to participate in a more detailed review of HB 1472 reflects an important first step in solving these problems across the state," testified Lohr.
Recognizing the important impact this issue could have on their constituents, legislators have called for more information to study the issue during the Summer Study Session. In response, NRMCA has partnered with industry colleagues from the steel and concrete masonry industries, as well as many fire chiefs in Maryland, to make sure the committee understands that legislative action is needed to change the way these types of buildings are constructed so that residents in Maryland are safer.
"Concrete and steel are commonly used together in all types of structures because they bring complementary characteristics that result in strong, safe and resilient buildings. So a partnership between the concrete and steel industries aimed at producing codes, standards and legislation that promote stronger, safer buildings is a natural and logical extension of that relationship," said Larry Williams, executive director of the Steel Framing Industry Association.
NRMCA thanks Delegate Marvin Holmes for convening the session. Delegate Holmes sent an e-mail to attendees immediately following the meeting that stated, "the discussion was very helpful; and it has become clear to the HRP sub-committee that we need to have more technical information to assist us to become more familiar with this subject area."
Build with Strength is a first-of-its-kind program for the concrete industry, designed not only to support NRMCA members, their businesses and the hard-working men and women of the concrete industry, but also to change the way people think about concrete construction versus direct competitors like soft-wood lumber. NRMCA has resources to help members and state affiliates advocate for resilient and safer construction, including model legislation, talking points, public relations and other key strategies.
To learn more about how NRMCA can assist in state advocacy, please contact John Loyer, senior director of state and local government affairs, at 703-675-7603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.