Fire protection for covered exterior area (w/o walls)

I am having difficulty determining the governing requirements (per the 2007 CBC) for a covered structure with no walls, to be used for a covered exterior play area. The area covered by of the structure is less than 4000sf, so Type V-B construction would appear to be OK.


1. How close to the property line could this type structure be located? Also, are there different requirements for the required distance from the PL of the roof projection vs. the vertical roof support members?

2. Would the fire protection of the roof projection near the PL be the same as for standard roof eaves?

3. Is there any part of the code that discusses these type of structures specifically?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. . .
Original Post
Sorry I can't remember exactly when, but we had a somewhat spirited debate on this one maybe a year ago??? Maybe someone can link to that discussion.

Generally, this is a canopy with open sides (if I understand your description), so has open air circulation and reduced smoke build-up. However, the size is quite large. Physical layout/proportions could affect the hazard evalaution.

More important, based on your description I will 'guess' this is a school project (and you said CBC, so I assume it's a DSA project). DSA has its own unique take on issues of this type (which is what started the old discussion. In that case DSA was demanding sprinklers under a non-combustible canopy, even though the only load would have been the clothing and backpacks of the attendees (and would presumably would 'leave' the area with the kids). It made no sense to me at all... but because DSA has the mind-set that it can dictate things not necessarily required by the actual code langauge, the school district was at an impasse and 'complied' simply because they could not further delay completion of the project.

More info from you on the particular situation might help.

Thanks for your response--a few clarifications:

1. This is for a school project, though for a private school so DSA doesn't apply (fortunately).

2. The approximate area covered by the canopy is 50'x80'

Basically, we want to push it as close to our property line as possible, preferably without triggering any fire rating requirements. That said, we would consider a non-combustible or a F.R. structure if it made a big difference in the area we could provide.

As far as smoke accumulation goes, would that really be a factor if the canopy was 16' above ground with only a noncombustible play surface below it?

Many thanks for your help with this.

PS-I did a search to see if i could find the thread hil_CA mentioned from a year ago, but couldn't find anything. If anyone does know about this please post a link--thanks.

Other considerations aside, a non-combustible approach (steel structure w/metal roof) is customary for this type of canopy because: a) it is cost-effective overall, with metal roofing negating the need for BUR, etc.; b) it is durable in a student environment; c) periodic and maintenance factors are reduced from those using wood structure; etc. ...and you have the added benefit of area increases.

Point well taken, and for the numerous reasons you suggested we may well go that way regardless of code requirements.

In any event, the question of fire-rated construction requirements (incl. protection of structural members) & minimum distance of the canopy/structure from the property line are the primary issues I'm still looking for guidance on. Any input on those aspects?
others here will give you better guidance... i'm out of state and wouldn't be able to research now in any case...

another thought... there are a number of pre-fab structures specifically targeted at schools, including ones with fabric roofs that have fire-retardent treatments... you might look into that... we used them in our local school district with excellent results... each 'section' was about 40' square and had a tubular steel column at corners, all steel exposed...

Thanks for your input, greatly appreciated.

I also had considered a membrane structure as an alternative, however due the requirements of CBC 3102 & Table 602, we'd need to set it back a minimum of 10' from the property line to avoid a 1hr rating requirement. As we're bounded by a property line on 3 sides and an existing structure on part of the other, the resultant area is too small to be useful. Hence the inquiry about the "canopy" option. . .
I'm not from California but if this was in our town you would be subject to setbacks in our zoning code, plus rating requirements based on proximity to lot lines in the building code. Just because you are unenclosed doesn't get you off the hook.

You would also have to sprinkler it.
i couldn't find the previous discussion either.

but no walls, completely open building is still a building. the absence of walls does not mean there are no openings, as the space between the roof and the floor is the opening. so the magic is defining the "wall", allowing the roof to "project" beyond, per the distance to property line.

per Table 602, your suggested Type V-B structure, "exterior walls" need to be protected at anything less than 10' from the property line. but the roof can project beyond per section 704.2. per table 704.8, un-protected openings are Not Permitted at 5 feet, so you can project 12" into that. so the roof edge can be within 4 feet of the property line.

so set the columns at 10' from the property line, and the roof edge at 4 feet, and you will have more area than what you proposed above.

now if someone has some grand ideas about buildings with no walls, to be closer than that, please speak up as that's what i'm trying to solve. thanks!
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