Solar Compromise for International Fire Code

Denver, CO — The 2012 International Fire Code (IFC) added provisions that restrict the placement of solar photovoltaic panels on roofs. The provisions originated as California guidelines and are intended to address firefighter safety. They call for a three-foot setback from most roof edges.

 

The solar industry has been concerned that these requirements would make many rooftop installations infeasible, but the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA), led the search for a compromise that was finally developed in the summer of 2013.

 

To find an acceptable compromise, COSEIA has been working for more than a year with multiple parties. Many member companies have participated in an informal working group. Namaste Solar analyzed 50 residential installations from 2012 in the City of Boulder. Of these, 64% would violate a strict interpretation of the 2012 IFC. Based on this, Namasté estimated that strict enforcement of the 2012 IFC could result in a 50% reduction in rooftop PV adoption in Boulder.

 

At the direction of City of Boulder officials, COSEIA worked on code amendment language with fire fighting professionals as well as the solar community. Finally, compromise language was hammered out with the leadership of Namaste’s Dan Yechout on behalf of COSEIA, and Boulder Chief Fire Marshal David Lowrey. The new compromise has been endorsed by the Boulder City Council.

 

We recommend consideration of this compromise to jurisdictions across Colorado and other states interested in adopting the 2012 International Fire Code without hobbling the solar industry. See examples of fire code adaptations:

 

 

  • Step 10 in Best Practices for Solar Friendly Communities talks about fire codes
  • Boulder, CO compromise of the 2012 International Fire Code
  • Golden, CO also has adopted interesting compromise language to the 2012 IFC