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Code Alert: Rhode Island, 16 March 2011



On March 10, 2011 the Rhode Island Building Code Standards Committee met and voted to accept the recommendation of the Rhode Island Electrical Code Subcommittee to amend the Rhode Island Electrical Code (SBC-5) by updating the parent document from the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC®) to the 2011 NEC®. Building Commissioner John Leyden reconvened the Subcommittee in October 2010. The subcommittee is appointed by the Commissioner and serves as an advisory committee to the Building Code Standards Committee regarding adoption of the NEC®. The subcommittee reviewed the 2011 NEC® to identify if any provisions would require modification for adoption in Rhode Island. The subcommittee objective was to complete the review process by March 2011 in order to present the subcommittee recommendations to the Committee at their March 10, 2011 meeting.

A public hearing on the adoption will be held Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 1:00 P.M, One Capitol Hill, Providence RI., Conference Room A. All interested parties are invited to submit written or oral comments concerning the proposed regulations by April 14, 2011. Written comments should be sent to Rhode Island Building Code Standards Committee, One Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island 02908. Immediately following the hearing, the Building Code Commission will hold their regular meeting and vote on the adoption. Once approved by the Commission, the proposed Code will be sent to the Legislative Oversight Committee on Building Code Regulations. If approved by the Legislative Oversight Committee, the proposed Code will be filed with the Secretary of State and become effective July 1, 2011.

The current version of SBC-5 has eight amendments, all are administrative provisions. The subcommittee identified three technical provisions in the 2011 NEC® to be modified. The first was an amendment to 210.25, to incorporate an existing blanket variance. Rhode Island General Law section 23-28.1-2(b)(2)(i) adopted a statute directing the State Fire Board to provide reasonable standards for the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide devices in all existing three (3) family dwellings. NEC® section 210.25 prohibits these devices, located in the common areas of the three (3) family building, to be supplied from dwelling unit equipment. This led to the initial unanticipated expense of installing a separate electrical meter in the building. A second unanticipated expense resulted from compliance with the electrical service provider's standing policy that new meters could only be installed on the exterior of the building. Accordingly, the owner of an existing three-family house could now incur unanticipated additional expenses for the installation of smoke and CO devices that were originally anticipated to cost far less. This amendment permits the owners of three-family dwellings who are simply complying with the provisions of the Rhode Island Life Safety Code to supply these devices from equipment supplying a dwelling unit. The owner must maintain the electrical power to the devices or be found in violation of RIGL 23-28.3-9 of the State Fire Code and subject to fines of five hundred dollars a day for every day the devices are not powered.

Another amendment is a revision to 230.82. This amendment will permit a meter disconnect switch to be installed at the meter, either on the line or load side of the meter, without invoking the requirements for a grounding electrode or a separate equipment grounding conductor. This amendment is similar to one adopted in neighboring Massachusetts. The problem is, under the current code, meter disconnects installed on the supply side of the service disconnecting means are permitted but where installed on the load side inspectors are treating the meter pedestal and enclosed meter disconnecting means as a structure and the conductors on the load side of the disconnect as feeders, thus requiring a grounding electrode at the meter location and the installation of a separate equipment grounding conductor.

The subcommittee also recommended the deletion of 230.24(A) Exception No. 5. This new exception in the 2011 NEC® will permit the vertical clearance of overhead service conductors above the roof surface to be reduced from not less than 2.5 m (8 ft) to 900 mm (3 ft) if the roof area is guarded or isolated. The justification for this NEC® exception was to correlate the NEC® with the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). Currently, the NESC allows conductors to be a minimum of 900 mm (3 ft) above the roof, if the conductors are guarded or isolated. The subcommittee recognized that the NESC applies to utility work where the utility has exclusive control, access is restricted and qualified persons maintain the installation. Exception No. 5 in the NEC® requires the roof area to be either guarded or isolated, which can be accomplished by locking the roof access, but this arrangement would not prevent building management or service personnel from coming in contact with the conductors, which the subcommittee views as an unsafe condition.

Contact: Gil Moniz: gilmoniz@nema.org