Saturday, January 24, 2015


Winter at last, a day sans newspapers and must rely on the TV media reports. It seems that the only news is family and other multiple shootings and also the Avalon fire in Edgewater as well as Deflate gate.

Years ago I wrote a blog questioning the fire hazard of the apartments and town houses being built in NJ. I was disturbed then by watching the wooden construction of the Monarch in Plainfield, and by the “town houses” fires in Edison and Piscataway. I have watched the new construction in Plainfield (South Ave.) as well as Fanwood and Cranford that seem to be entirely wood and no apparent non inflammable partitions between units.

 I have been assured that all meet the State Codes including sprinklers.
 So did the Edgewater complex yet a fire that started in one unit destroyed 66% of the complex, or some 250 0F 408 units. 

The complex had sprinklers as required but they did not limit the fire to the original unit or stop its spread. It is unclear if there was any fire resistant material used in the walls and overhead spaces.

There is no question that the NJ construction fire codes are inadequate to prevent such a disaster. In Plainfield such buildings as the Monarch or the new ones on South Ave may represent a dangerous risk by fire to property and people.

The State minimum code must be changed. There is no reason why the local construction code cannot be more demanding than the State’s. A responsible Planning Board and local government can see to that.

The other major stories this past week includes Obama’s “State of the Union” address, which I hope to comment on in the near future, as well as another scandal involving the New England Patriots.
“Deflate gate” should appeal to the supporters of Plainfield’s previous administration. If you can get away with it, it is ok.
Patriot Quarterback Brady after 10 years can say that he was unaware of any decreased pressure in the football. After all he does is grip the ball on every offensive play.

Of course Belichick like other bosses despite his history can with a straight face claim a lack of knowledge. He does not touch the balls.
On Saturday he blamed weather conditions on the change in ball pressure; but gave no explanation why one ball had not lost air.

The outbreak of measles on the west coast once again illustrates how irrational individuals  can threaten the health  and lives  of others. Measles can be a killer as it has in the past; or as a complication of meningitis can result in life long epilepsy. The refusal to vaccinate their children has no scientific rational.   The religious excuse cannot be permitted to endanger others.



  1. The Edgewater fire and others are unfortunate but likely to occur again. The State Uniform Construction Code is a mini- maxi- code. In other words, it establishes both the minimum and maximum levels of construction permitted in New Jersey. The following section from the New Jersey Administrative Code is the regulation that blocks local government from setting higher standards than those established by the UCC:

    N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.2 (e) "Where provisions herein specify requirements for structural, fire and sanitary safety, no provision of any municipal zoning or other municipal code shall conflict, govern or have effect. Where the provisions herein specify requirements with respect to location, use, permissible area and height, and the municipal zoning code establishes requirements as well, then the more restrictive requirements of this code or the zoning code shall govern."

    The Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Adjustment cannot establish any construction requirements that are less stringent nor more stringent than the UCC, not even if variances are requested.

    1. Michael, once again I thank you for your informed input to my blogs. It would seem that members of a concerned legislature would introduce legislation that would at least set safe minimums, or allow communities to upgrade their own requirements. But then again we have an idea who represents our public.

    2. Doc.. The cited provision merely states that the UCC Code standards are a minimum. Municipalities can, should they choose, adopt more stringent standards. The UCC does establish technical specifications for allowable stresses with regard to structural components, be they timber, concrete or steel. The Code sets limitations on the heights, for example of timber and , masonry construction. The overarching question that arises when a disaster like this occurs is whether the standards are sufficient. We can reasonably conclude that the sprinkler system, if it existed and was activated, was "somewhat" inadequate. It is hoped that this event, which miraculously did not result in personal injury, triggers a complete Code review. Bill Kruse

    3. Bill, the citation actually states that "no provision...shall conflict, govern, or have effect." That means no greater requirement nor any lesser requirement. As a former construction code official, I can state unequivocally that municipalities may not adopt construction requirements that are more stringent than the Uniform Construction Code. You can verify this by calling the Division of Codes and Standards at the NJ Department of Community Affairs.

    4. Michael, thank you for that clarification. I did not understand the full meaning of the language Never too old to learn. I will only add that there is no caveat which prevents the design engineer from employing higher standards. Too many engineers use Codes as design criteria when they are intended to be minimum requirements. Bill Kruse

    5. You are absolutely correct, Bill. NJ has a mini- maxi- code to prevent local governments from setting higher standards, but that doesn't mean architects and engineers cannot specify higher (= safer) standards for buildings. Masonry fire walls would have prevented the total destruction of the building in Edgewater.