The NSCA Codes & Compliance Committee provides a forum for members to ask questions and find answers to the issues they’re most concerned about in regard to compliance.
Ask our committee a question and the most appropriate subject-matter expert will provide you with direction or advice. We may point you to other resources on NSCA’s website or to the leading authorities on the topic as well.
Our goal is to provide direction and best practices while respecting the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The general advice we provide may still require you to check local ordinances, codes, or permitting regulations.
Code Conflicts (2)
What steps can I take when a specification requires us to meet all applicable codes and standards – but doesn’t list what those are?
A: The risk involved with misinterpreting codes or standards can be devastating to a project. This is one of the reasons NSCA took its legislative agenda to membership in 2019 for approval.
Historically, integrators have relied upon manufacturers and vendor partners to interpret the intent of the specifier in the absence of clarity. Today, that responsibility is shifting to the integrator because multiple systems and/or applications are integrated and interconnected.
The code official (AHJ) is likely to be concerned only with the basic or core purpose for which a system is required or specified based upon specific occupancy. We often see AHJs asking for proof that basic systems meet code; they aren’t as concerned with ancillary or supplemental features as long as they don’t interfere with or alter the operation or integrity of the core system.
A: We push back. Our company never issues a price on a project without clarity on this. We would rather pass on a project than send out a bid we’re uncomfortable with. We also do what we can to educate the spec writers and consultants on what our AHJs will and won’t accept.
A: Our biggest problem is confusion between UL, ICC, and NFPA. We try to educate our team and adhere to the highest standards but feel like our competitors do what’s cheapest (and get away with it).
Who is the responsible party when specifications call for compliance with all applicable codes and standards?
Great question and every jurisdiction seems to be different. The person we all have to answer to is the one granting the occupancy permit. Typically the building inspector or a construction manager or an owner’s representative will do a walk through prior to close out. You want to be present for that if possible and show your expertise and knowledge of the local ordinances, permitting processes and how your systems match the specifications and the approved submittals.
Contract Administration (2)
A: Yes! Visit the Online Essentials Library and use the search bar for details.
A: We use AIA agreements because they are proven to be fair and are widely accepted.
A: Well, we used to be all for it and actually supported legislation around the concept. However we soon discovered that we also needed a pay when not paid provision as well. The intent was a solid idea but we found that most contractors who didn’t pay in accordance with the terms and conditions in the project manual were in default on other parts of the project where they weren’t going to be paid for quite some time.
A: On government projects the Little Miller Act is even better than pay when paid. This has helped numerous NSCA members get paid when their portion of the work was not called into question.
Cybersecurity/Internet of Things (1)
Does CSI MasterFormat have specification language for cybersecurity? We are now seeing that in our specifications.
Yes and no. Division 27 doesn’t yet, but Division 28 does. Look for the next version to incorporate the same cybersecurity language in Division 27 as you see in Division 28 today.
Industry Classifications (2)
Is there an opportunity here is to create an industry certification that is relevantly code/standard-based; one that takes into account not only the generalities of what AVC integrators do (conduit, basic electrical theory, etc.) but also some of the specifics that aren’t covered in the typical trade exam (networking, audio/video/lighting/control systems 101, POE, etc.)?
I think it would be great. Imagine if it were a viewed as a pre-cursor to the typical contractor’s exam. As we review low voltage license exams around the country they all seem to have the same general questions. It would be fantastic if that were nationwide and include Canada.
Intellectual Property (3)
Related to the code/copyright conversation: content protection schemes. Can we simply add a clause to our contract that specifically shifts all liability for copyright violation (should a video system be used to duplicate a movie, for example) and absolves us from changes to copyright protection schemes created/modified by the content producer (re: HDCP) should a future change to that scheme render our client’s system unusable.
Who owns the code and rights to make changes to initial programing configuration once the project has been turned over to the owner/end-user?
This is an often-disputed and often-debated issue. It is NSCA’s belief that code ownership needs to be a defined arrangement: something contracted between the software developer, manufacturer, programmer, integrator, and end-user. This is very complex when many parties are involved. There are several legal opinions, numerous case studies, and, in some instances, unresolved project closeout disputes that have gone on for years.
The most important factor is the agreement between the control systems manufacturer and the integrator. Often, the integrator signs a dealer agreement which clearly states that the software, source code, and initial programming will be turned over to the end-user; their license agreement is subject to turning that over.
In other cases, the manufacturer leaves it up to the authorized dealer to transfer the ownership (or not) of the programming information as they see fit.
It could be because an end-user equipped with the basic knowledge of the system, the as-built drawings, and the programming capability could replicate a system and use the limited-use license to build out many systems when the intent was a single system.
Jobs, Technology & STEM (1)
Visit www.espa.org and www.igniteyourcareer.org to get started. Ignite has an Ambassador program that gives NSCA members the tools and resources they need to meet with local schools and become engaged in the process of building a talent pipeline. Ambassadors are provided with a presentation, talking points, and tips on attending career fairs and meeting with STEM administrators and schools.
ESPA is a basic training and certification program designed for entry-level workers who want to start their careers or for those thinking of a career change. It’s a great place to start for an installer position.
Labor Laws, Licensing & Prevailing Wages (4)
Are rules changing about the use of subs and other 1099 contract employees and if so where and how?
This seems to be an ongoing concern. We are particularly interested in the recently adopted CA AB 5. The rules on determining who is an independent contractor and who is an employee are being tested again through companies like Uber and others who have very restrictive rules and policies to where they appear to governing agencies to conduct business more as an employee. You can follow that legislation here… https://www.nsca.org/track-legislation/
Federal law dictates that each state is responsible for the code requirements of a state and/or municipality/city. Some states have a state code that each municipality/city must adhere to.
In addition, each municipality/city may have supplementary requirements. Some states (i.e. Missouri) have a state code for state buildings, but allow each municipality/city to decide which codes are valid within that municipality/city.
While this may seem confusing, a school district should conduct an online search of municipality/city codes. From there, the district will quickly discover whether the municipality/city has a unique code or whether the municipality/city is under the requirements of a state code.
Online resources such as www.municode.com have up-to-date lists of all municipality/city codes.
We are seeing new legislation and hearing reports of increased sub-contractor claims against our members on prevailing wage projects. Does NSCA know if that is a state by state thing? A federal David Bacon provision or what? The scenario would be that we comply with certified payroll and all but bring in subs that pull wire or whatever and not pay their people prevailing wage. Do you see any new regs clamping down on that?
A: The federal Davis-Bacon Act requires that prevailing wages be paid on federally funded public works projects, such as construction, repair or alteration of public buildings, or construction of public roads or bridges. The federal law sets a minimum threshold of $2,000. States must abide by the Davis-Bacon Act when federal funds are involved in public works projects within the state. Not all occupations are subject to prevailing wage under Davis-Bacon, but the prevailing wage for those occupations that are subject (specifically on-site laborers and mechanics) are determined by the U.S. Department of Labor through surveys of wages paid in those occupations in surrounding areas and they include both union and nonunion labor. States also have their own prevailing wage requirements, sometimes known as the “little Davis-Bacon Act”. The actual prevailing wage rates and application depend upon the state in which the project is located. States that do have prevailing wage rates have dollar thresholds for contract coverage (summary of thresholds by stated is posted at the DOL online here). The rate itself is determined by the prevailing wage determination assigned to the subcontractor (e.g. sound and signal technician), which in many cases also varies by county (similar to Davis-Bacon). We price both our labor and our subcontractor labor using the applicable prevailing wage rate (where prevailing wage applies). Our subcontractors are required to make their own prevailing wage determination (as it relates to which prevailing wage rate applies); however, in most instances, it is the same determination we use for that jurisdiction. We also push down the prevailing wage requirements to our subcontractors via contract and, therefore, we require them to include certified payroll reports with their applications for payment as a condition to payment (much like we do with lien releases). I believe the biggest source of these issues is the need for integrators to push down these requirements to their subcontractors and ensure their subcontractors are complying with these regulations to the same extent to which we, as integrators, are required to comply as it relates to the work being performed by that subcontractor.
A: Generally, when prevailing wage rates are required to be paid we use our own labor to perform the work and pays our employees the required prevailing wage rate. We probably subcontract out roughly 20% of work that is subject to prevailing wage rates. When we subcontract out to a third party for work performed on a prevailing wage rate project we advise the subcontractor (i) this project is subject to prevailing wage and you will be required to furnish us certified payroll proving you paid prevailing wage rates; (2) we need you to include prevailing wage rates in your pricing; (3) we provide them with the prevailing wage rate pricing schedules if they do not have them; and (4) we confirm when we receive the proposal that they did include labor rates which meet the prevailing wage rates required. Thereafter, we require the subcontractors to submit to us certified payroll monthly which is required for us to pass along to the General Contractors or Customer direct (depending on if a GC is involved). We have an employee who reviews the certified payroll received from subcontractors to verify the correct rates were paid as well. In my opinion, any issues related to this is more of a miscommunication issue of an AV integrator not advising a subcontractor that prevailing wage rates are required when they request a quote from the subcontractor and thereafter not require certified payroll to prove that prevailing wage rates were paid to the subs employees. Also, another miscommunication may be an AV integrator not asking the customer/GC if prevailing wage rates are required to be paid. We always ask on all projects that we bid as a standard RFI.
Visit the U.S. Department of Labor site. Also look at NSCA’s Legislative Tracking Map to track new laws and regulations on proposed changes in your state.
We do not. Training from other sources is very affordable and available online.
Regulatory Issues (2)
Is the Nebraska licensure bill (NE LR 231) something we should worry about? We do a lot of work in Nebraska.
Not yet as it is just a fact finding study bill but if we see it turning into something more we will do an action alert.
Why is the permitting process becoming so difficult and impacting us when we come in after the construction phase is over?
We are seeing this more and more. In the past, a permit wasn’t needed in most jurisdictions for projects within the scope and price range of what we do. Today, that has changed. Even a simple project can require a permit. It is a revenue generator and is used to verify licensing. Be mindful of doing work in an unfamiliar city. NSCA has seen major delays in places you would never expect due to unfamiliarity.
Risk Mitigation (2)
At the P2Pv conference the presenter suggested we have a compliance officer… what does that even mean?
It was in reference to someone appointed by the company to oversee and do the mandatory tracking and reporting on requirements such as OSHA 10, track required certifications, attend mandatory job site meetings, manage the project closeout documentation processes, track any contracts with specific provisions for insurance or similar things. We often assume one project is just like the one before it and we tend to forget that the front end of the spec book is the most important.
We struggle to have our frontline people conduct a “proof-of-performance” closeout procedure effectively because every client is different and the systems we provide are unique. Do you have any suggestions on how to be more systematic to avoid the risk of not meeting expectations and delaying final payment?
Yes! For one, include an explanation of the process and closeout procedures you use in the proposal or contract with the end-user upfront. Try not to use generic language that opens you up to subjective interpretation. Use industry closeout procedures and best practices; provide a timeline that maps out when the owner representative needs to be there to sign off.
School Safety (8)
Yes! Integrators that are also PASS partners understand the privacy laws and codes that govern permissible camera fields of view.
Door-lock magnetic strips seem to work and meet code. Why don’t we acknowledge them as a low-cost solution?
NFPA 101 states that any door within a fire/smoke partition must be rated for the partition and must positively close. A classroom door is within a fire/smoke partition if the door is rated as a fire/smoke door (the door will have a metal tag on the hinge side of the door providing the door’s fire/smoke rating) and has a mechanical closer installed.
If this is the case, then Life Safety Code requires that the door freely close. At no time is the door allowed to be “propped” open. This includes a magnetic strip that restricts the door from latching.
In the event of a fire, air movement is a key component to the restriction or conflagration of a fire. A magnetic strip that restricts the door from latching allows the door to open due to the difference in temperature between the spaces in which the door penetrates.
A fire will seek the path of least resistance, which, scientifically, is moving from an area with high temperature to an area with low temperature. The effect of a high-temperature area combined with a low-temperature area creates a suction effect between the two areas. If the door between the two areas is not latched, this effect will open the door, allowing the fire to promulgate from one area to another.
If the door using the magnetic strip isn’t part of a fire/smoke partition, then the code does not have any requirements.
NFPA 730: Guide for Premises Security recommends either wire mesh embedded into the glass or bullet-resistant film or all exterior windows, exterior doors with glass, and exterior sidelights.
NFPA 730 does not provide recommendations for interior doors, interior windows, or interior sidelights.
Our emergency evacuation is tied into the fire alarm system. To initiate a lockdown, we use the fire panel in the entry vestibule. What should we do?
According to NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, Chapter 24, an emergency voice communication system must have, at minimum, two locations from which emergency commands are sent.
This means that a school should have a secondary location allowing for emergency commands, such as active shooter, weather emergency, live voice announcements, and other threats to building occupants.
The fire panel is the primary source to initiate an emergency command; however, code dictates that a secondary source is required. If this is not the case in your school, it is recommended that you work with the fire marshal to ensure that the fire alarm/emergency communication system is up to code.
Our teachers won’t keep classroom doors shut and locked during class periods. Is keeping them open but locked okay?
NFPA 101: Life Safety Code states that any door within a fire/smoke partition must be rated for the partition and must positively close. A classroom door is within a fire/smoke partition if the door is rated as a fire/smoke door (the door will have a metal tag on the hinge side of the door providing the door’s fire/smoke rating) and has a mechanical closer installed.
If this is the case, then Life Safety Code requires that the door freely close. At no time is the door allowed to be “propped” open.
If the classroom door isn’t part of a fire/smoke partition, then NFPA 730: Guide for Premises Security suggests that the door remain locked at all times.
Patented key loss is a major issue facing all schools and can result in significant cost.
Each occurrence must be reported immediately; a loss investigation must take place. Treat this as lost or stolen property with the same sense of urgency. If the key is a master or outside building key, begin the process of rekeying the school or look to this as an opportunity to replace traditional locksets and keys with an electronic solution.
What’s the best policy for allowing (or not allowing) parents who have a concealed carry permit but aren’t sworn officers into a school – a marked gun-free zone – with a firearm?
While this topic isn’t within the scope of PASS, all public schools must follow individual state law. That will govern your policy.