NJ Legislation Could Affect Cold-Formed Steel

April 2015

As a result of a fire, proposed legislation in New Jersey could adversely affect the use of cold-formed steel framing. The Steel Framing Industry Association, AWCI and AWCI’s New Jersey chapter, the Drywall and Interior Systems Contractors Association Inc., are organizing a campaign to change the language in the proposed bill from “Light Weight Construction” to “Combustible Construction.” Although this issue currently affects only New Jersey, it is something other states need to be aware of. Read on.

Background. On Jan. 22, the 4-story wood-framed Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex in New Jersey burned to the ground after a plumber’s torch ignited the wood framing in a wall cavity. On Feb. 12, New Jersey Assemblyman Scott Rumana put forward a bill that would impose a moratorium on the use of “Light Frame Construction” for apartments for up to two years while new rules are adopted (https://legiscan.com/NJ/bill/ A4195/2014).

Problem. The New Jersey Uniform Building code defines Light Frame Construction as “a type of construction whose vertical and horizontal structural elements are primarily formed by a system of repetitive wood or cold-formed steel framing members.” (Section 5:23-3.14). So, while the target of the bill is wood, the use of cold-formed steel is clearly at risk.

Cause. In New Jersey, legislation is drafted by the Office of Legislative Services at the direction of an assemblyperson or senator. According to Assemblyman Rumana, the person who drafted the bill used the language in the code that most obviously pointed to wood framing. He has said his objective is to ensure the safety of occupants and firefighters and said that he’s open for amendments and changes that ensure the bill is correct.

Proposed Fix
The SFIA has proposed that the term “Light Frame Construction” be replaced by the term “Combustible.” This is consistent with the intent of the bill, which originated in the Avalon at Edgewater fire, and also has a basis in the New Jersey Uniform Building Code where noncombustible materials are determined according to tests referenced in Chapter 7, section 703.4.

Status
The bill now has a co-sponsor, Donna Simon, assemblyperson from District 16. In the Senate, Kevin O’Toole (District 40) is watching this issue. This suggests that the bill has forward movement and will ultimately be presented for a vote.

Next Steps

  • The bill must first be read into the record, which could take place in early March.
  • From there, it most likely will be sent to a committee (possibly Housing and Commu- nity Development) where it will be reviewed and amendments can be made. Committee hearings are open, and the public has an opportunity to speak.
  • The bill as approved by the committee is then read into the assembly proceedings and scheduled for a vote.
  • On the scheduled date, the bill is read for the third time and is voted on. The bill becomes law if it receives 41 votes in the assembly.

AWCI will work with SFIA and continue to follow this issue.