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What is an Engineering Judgment (EJ)?

The prescriptive requirements of the building code include numerous methods of compliance for fire-resistance rated construction. While compliance is most often achieved through the use of a tested, listed assembly, the code also permits an “engineering analysis,” whereby a qualified individual is permitted to submit technical justification that a proposed condition satisfies the level of safety intended by the code. This justification forms the basis for an Engineering Judgment, used to demonstrate that a proposed condition is considered to be code-compliant.

The building code also provides requirements for where fire-resistant assemblies must be constructed, as well as the test standards used to substantiate assembly performance. Assemblies that are tested in conformance with these standards are listed by approved agencies such as UL, ASTM, and NFPA, and considered to be suitable for the performance ratings specified in their listings, where the ratings are based on fire test results.

Where listed assemblies are not available due to unique construction conditions or other constraints, an Engineering Judgment may be prepared to justify the proposed design will achieve an equivalent level of safety to that required by the applicable codes, if it were tested. The EJ is commonly developed in concert with, and sealed by, a licensed Fire Protection Engineer (FPE) to certify that the technical performance of the proposed assembly is considered to achieve the code requirements and intended level of safety.

How Engineering Judgments (EJ) can bring value to your project:

  • Due to the complexity of modern buildings, EJ are increasingly used to develop customized solutions to simplify construction cost and effort and resolve challenging field conditions.
  • EJ development during the design phase offers a significant opportunity for cost and schedule savings. Review and approval before construction maximizes the construction schedule and can mitigate the risks of unforeseen circumstances, which often involve construction and inspection delays and costly overruns.
  • While not uncommon, EJ development during the construction phase often occurs when explicit compliance with a tested assembly is not feasible. This can result in delays when the construction team is reluctant to proceed with fire-resistant assemblies at-risk before authority approval. In this case, expedited EJ development is often critical in minimizing delays and gaining approval to proceed with construction as efficiently as possible.
  • EJs might be necessary at unique fire-rated construction conditions like head-of-wall conditions, through-penetration firestop conditions, exterior wall edge-of-slab, unique wall conditions, etc.
  • EJs may be required when:
    • Aspects of the building design deviate from traditional construction methods and materials.
    • Field conditions prohibit the installation of the assembly in conformance with all parts of its listing.
    • Challenges in the field lead to installations that do not match the originally intended system.
    • The design uses new and innovative technologies.
    • Conditions where no listed and tested systems are available.

How can we help?

Coffman has extensive experience in evaluating and preparing EJs for fire-resistance rated construction. Our specialized fire protection engineers have unique insights into structural framing and assembly performance. They provide valuable contributions that build confidence for the design team and approval authorities alike. Leveraging our knowledge and experience in this specialized area allows us to work collaboratively with design and construction teams to develop solutions to complex field conditions.

Given our strong relationships with local agencies and long history of delivering successful EJs, Coffman is positioned to contribute schedule and cost-savings and alleviate approval risks and delays for a wide variety of projects.

Learn more.

Download an informative white paper prepared by Coffman’s fire protection engineers about Engineering Judgments and the application on Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) projects. The information can be broadly applied across varying projects and jurisdictions, subject to the Authority Having Jurisdiction.