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Public Works Week: Plans Review and Inspections Dept. Focuses on Life Safety 
Plans Review
Jim Tente, Building and Plans Review Chief, measures fire exit options on some construction plans.

Any new parent or anyone who has ever delved into a survival book/television show knows how easy it is to go down that rabbit hole of “what ifs.”

Through the lens of potential dangers, one can see an entire new, sometimes terrifying world.

Thankfully for developers, residents, and visitors of buildings in Knoxville, there’s an entire Plans Review and Inspections Department of 40 inspectors, technicians, and administrative professionals trained to anticipate and prevent potential dangers for us.

For example, walking down the street, one can completely take for granted the fact that a business sign will stay attached to a building through a high gust of wind. That’s because an inspector ensured that sign regulations were followed.

In emergencies, it’s no different. The Plans Review and Inspections Department evaluates project designs and compares them to the International Building Code (IBC) standards for appropriate exit systems in case of emergencies.

IBC provides guidelines for the number of exit options based on the capacity of a space.

Recently, an office building constructed in 1969 was getting approved for renovation to become a hotel. Because the purpose of the building changed (and therefore altered the pressurization and capacity rules), additional emergency exits had to be worked into the construction plans.

“The Fire Marshall’s Office is located in the City County Building so that we can work closely with the Plans Review and Inspections Department,” said Capt. Sonny Partin, Deputy Fire Marshal for the Knoxville Fire Department. “Proper exit systems are not only important to exit people out of a building, but are also critical for our responding engine companies in the case of an emergency.”

Similarly, a medical office building in South Knoxville was seeking to remove a pedestrian bridge during a renovation. However, because the bridge served as an exit route for a large conference room, the bridge was required to remain.

That IBC manual is constantly being updated, so Plans Review and Inspections staff are required to undergo ongoing training.

“Building codes can change and adapt in light of tragic experiences and events,” said Peter Ahrens, Plans Review and Inspections Director. “It’s our mission to take a proactive approach when it comes to life safety in building construction.”

And because of that mission, we as civilians can enjoy local life without having to worry about building standards.

For more information on City codes and permits, visit www.knoxvilletn.gov/plansreview.

Posted by On 25 May, 2018 at 8:00 PM