NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 47

CODES, STANDARDS
AND COMPLIANCE

NFPA 101

Life safety in new
and existing structures

Interior and exterior
furnishings and contents
changes for 2021 edition 
By Kristin Bidga
n July 25, 2015, a large
fire broke out on a
14th-floor pool deck area
at The Cosmopolitan
resort in Las Vegas. The
fire began shortly after noon, and while
the exact cause was never confirmed, it
was suspected that either carelessly
discarded smoking materials from upper
balconies or an electrical issue from the
decorative lights used on and around the
pool deck decor was to blame for the
fire. The pool deck included large artificial palm trees made from plastic foam,
which fueled the rapid growth of the fire.
The fast-moving blaze consumed poolside cabanas and other furnishings and
décor on the deck.
At the time, national model fire and
life safety codes did not specifically
address combustible furnishings and
contents on the outside of buildings. An
NFPA Journal article from May 2016
highlighted the issues raised during this
fire and the efforts underway at the time
to raise awareness on the topic and what
could be done to reduce the dangers
associated with combustible decorations.
The development of the 2018 edition of
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, was already
well underway, however, so any changes
would have to wait until the following
revision cycle.
The second draft of the 2021 edition
of NFPA 101 responds to the issues
raised by the fire at The Cosmopolitan,
as well as other issues documented in
the changes coming to the expanded
Chapter 10 related to a building's interior and now exterior furnishings and
contents. Included in the draft are new

O

sections for combustible artificial decorative vegetation, outdoor furniture,
and a section on combustible artificial decorative vegetation on roofs and
near buildings. It's this last section that
directly relates and responds to those
deficiencies discovered in July 2015 in
Las Vegas.
The newly proposed Section 10.5 will
require combustible artificial decorative vegetation placed outdoors within
five feet of a building (measured from
the closest portion of the decoration
to the building), on a roof of a building, or under an overhang to comply

The 2021 NFPA 101
includes a new
section on combustible
artificial decorative
vegetation located
on rooftops and
near buildings.

with provisions for flammability, open
flames, electrical safety, and metallic
vegetation. Combustible artificial decorative vegetation will now have toshall
be labeled as having complied with one
of two fire tests, NFPA 701 or NFPA 289,
with additional limitations on the test
method or heat release rate, depending on the option selected. In addition,
candles and open flames are prohibited
on artificial vegetation, and electrical
wiring and lighting used for these decorative elements is required to be listed
for its application. No electrical wiring
or lighting will be permitted on artificial decorative vegetation constructed
entirely of metal.
While not as closely related to the
fire at The Cosmopolitan, another
new code section included in the 2021
second draft addresses outdoor furniture. Outdoor furniture placed under a
combustible exterior projection must
comply with additional provisions
addressing the furniture materials and

location. Furniture placed outdoors
within two feet of the building and
under a combustible exterior projection must be in an area protected by an
approved automatic sprinkler system,
or must comply with limitations of the
materials and its material properties for
which it can be constructed.
New provisions for combustible artificial decorative vegetation inside of
buildings is also being added to Chapter
10. These provisions will not only be
consistent with model fire codes such
as NFPA 1, Fire Code, but will provide
better guidance for buildings with these
types of contents. The new provisions
address flammability, electrical equipment, and open flames. Prior to the
addition of this section, NFPA 101 did
not contain information on interior
combustible artificial decorative vegetation, such as artificial Christmas trees or
other artificial plants.
Fires where furnishings and contents
are ignition sources or major contributors to fire development are not
uncommon. Discussion around the
safety of building contents includes
the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston in
1942, when 492 lives were lost in what
remains the country's deadliest nightclub fire. The blaze spread rapidly,
in part due to the presence of highly
combustible furnishings and interior decorations, including artificial
palm trees. The cause of the fire was
never conclusively determined. NFPA
101 continues to evolve to address new
materials, modern fire tests, and the
evolution of building materials and uses
to improve occupant safety and protect
property.
Certified amending motions on
NFPA 101 will be voted on by the NFPA
membership at this year's technical
meeting, with a final issuance of the
2021 edition by the NFPA Standards
Council later this summer. Follow the
final stages of the document's development by visiting nfpa.org/101next.
Kristin Bidga is technical lead for Engineering
Technical Services. NFPA members and AHJs can
use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on
NFPA 101 at nfpa.org/101.

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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

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