High Rise Fire Safety in Chicago, Part II

Last week we introduced the Chicago Life Safety Ordinance and some of its requirements. Click here to review. This week we’ll answer the question we left off with: Why are some high rises fully compliant and some not compliant at all?

InstallationAs a response to the differences in economic and occupancy realities between residential high rises (apartments, condominiums)and commercial high rises (offices, businesses, hotels), residential high rises and historical properties were exempted from installing sprinkler systems. However, they were required to have their buildings professionally evaluated for life safety viability. A scoring system was established for various aspects of the building, including smoke compartmentalization, dead end corridors, electrical panels and fire alarm/voice evacuation systems. If a building did not receive a passing score, the owners were to present a plan for city approval to attain a passing score. All this was to have been done by 2006. In order to give these properties time to budget and install, the actual work and subsequent re-evaluation to achieve a passing score was to have been done by 2012. So, again, why aren’t they compliant?

When the Great Recession hit, the value of residential high rises took a big hit. Many owners & associations were concerned that the introduction of an additional cost to the renters & condo owners would discourage sales and encourage vacancies. A large lobbying effort directed at the Chicago city council to delay or remove the ordinance requirements for residential high rises emerged. The resulting compromise moved the compliance date back to January1, 2015. That’s why 633 out of 725 residential high rises were not compliant at the end of 2011 (87%). Since 2012, an additional 45 have passed, 7 in 2013.

Next time we’ll look at what options these buildings have to achieve a passing score. Affiliated Fire Systems has the equipment, expertise and support you need to install a problem free fire alarm and/or emergency voice system. If you have any questions regarding your life safety needs, contact us via our ‘Contact Us’ page on our website, or email me directly at generowe@affiliatedinc.com.


About Gene Rowe

Gene Rowe serves as the Director of Business Development for Affiliated Customer Service. He brings twenty three years of fire alarm and emergency voice systems experience to the table with both an operational and marketing viewpoint. A US Army veteran, NICET certified, an executive board member of the IL-AFAA and a member of the NFPA, he began his career establishing operational expertise as a technician, developed graphic skills with CAD design as a general engineer, gained a ‘big picture’ mindset by moving to project management and finally a marketing perspective directing business development efforts. By interfacing with a broad range of diverse organizations such as the AFAA, CAA, AIA, CEA and the IFIA, he combines concerns of the owner, designer of record, contractor, distributor and approving authority to bring a unique perspective to Affiliated.

An avid marathon runner, he resides in west suburban Chicago with his wife and two sons. He's served the community as a Cub Scout Leader, as well as coaching multiple levels of travel and park district basketball and baseball teams. Professionally, he serves as the Treasurer and is on the Board of Directors for the Illinois chapter of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (IL-AFAA).


  1. […] in our first post on this subject, we defined how the Chicago High Rise Ordinance originated.  In our second post, we looked at why the compliancy rate was low.  In our previous post, we discussed how a […]

  2. […] our last post on the Chicago Life Safety Ordinance, commonly referred to as the Chicago High Rise Ordinance, we looked at some of the reasons a […]

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