Building Inspections and Code Compliance:
Risk Management - Northwestern University
All campus buildings are regularly inspected by the Office of Risk Management, the Office of Research Safety and/or the local Fire Department. The buildings are inspected for existing and potential hazards and for compliance with local and federal codes. Building inspection reports are sent to the building manager for correction of violations.
The three most common violations are:
- Fire doors propped open: Fire doors are specially constructed doors and frames that will withstand fire for a specific length of time. They are found at stairways, in corridors and at openings in fire walls to prevent the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. If fire doors are to be effective, they must always be kept closed. Fire doors held open by magnetic devices that release the doors to close when the fire alarm is activated can be left open, provided they are not obstructed.
- Obstruction of sprinkler heads: Sprinkler systems are the best means of defense for loss of property in a fire. Individual sprinkler heads will open only where the temperature reaches the prescribed setting. This will begin the extinguishment of the fire and immediately send an alarm to University Police. At least 18" of clearance must be kept at all times below the line of sprinklers to allow proper water distribution over the fire. Sprinklers must never be painted and should be protected from being struck and damaged or broken off. Leaks or other problems with the automatic sprinkler system should be reported promptly to Facilities Management.
- Obstruction of outlet path: The outlet path is your emergency evacuation path. This is all corridors and stairways out of the area. These outlet paths must be clear of all obstructions at all times. Common obstructions include boxes, chairs, tables and unwanted lab or office equipment.
The Office of Risk Management will provide aid to offices or departments that need help interpreting building codes. Inquiries often relate to building or room occupancy, the placement or addition of furniture and/or general safety concerns. Regulation codes include:
- Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA)
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
- Chicago Building Codes
If you have questions about any of these codes or general safety concerns call the Office of Risk Management at 491-3253.