High Rise Fire Safety in Chicago, Part III

Unsure of how the Chicago Life Safety Ordinance impacts your building?

In 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 majority of residential high rises in Chicago are not compliant with the ordinance. Let’s now look at what the owners & managers of these buildings are up against in order to become compliant.

Any Chicago high rise building that is exempt from having sprinklers must have a Life Safety Evaluation performed by a state licensed architect or professional engineer, regardless of whether they have sprinklers or not. The evaluator reviews various aspects of the building to assign it a score, based on values provided by the Chicago Building Code (CBC). Permanent features such as individual unit resistance to fire and smoke spread, corridor lengths and facade construction are assessed, as well as building systems. Building systems include the heating, venting and air conditioning systems, electrical systems, PA systems and fire alarm systems. Other items looked at are inter-floor firestopping, stairwell widths and number of building exits. Once building scores are assigned, the evaluator checks to see if the building meets minimum scores, as prescribed by the CBC. If not, he makes recommendations in order to achieve a passing score. Once agreed upon, the results and subsequent recommendations are filed with the city as a plan of action to become compliant.

It sounds easy enough, but points are not given merely for meeting construction standards or for having systems in place. They must perform to certain standards to get points. The bottom line is that most buildings without sprinkler systems or emergency voice alarm systems generally cannot achieve a passing score. The buildings that do are built to exceed construction codes and have an effective smoke control system in place. Most residential high rises are not built or maintained this way, so let’s focus on a more common scenario.

In our next edition, we’ll examine the resistance to implementing the plan of action and what can be done to help owners & managers overcome this resistance. 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. […] Rise Ordinance originated.  In our second post, we looked at why the compliancy rate was low.  In our previous post, we discussed how a residential high rise life safety score is determined.  Let’s now look […]

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