Rack Codes & StandardsRack Design & Installation

Why Rack Systems Must Comply With Building Codes

Industrial steel storage rack owners are sometimes surprised to learn that the verification of the structure’s safety and design is governed by one or more local jurisdictions, such as state, county or local municipality. Additionally, this permitting and inspection process applies to rack installed or reconfigured both in new buildings and in existing structures.

Until a building official has verified that all code provisions are satisfied by the rack’s design documentation, a building permit will not be issued. Likewise, a certificate of occupancy won’t be issued until the completed installation is inspected. Owners who ignore such requirements—either willfully or accidentally—are at risk for fines or prosecution should their racking be found unpermitted.

The reason rack structures fall under building codes—including the International Code Council’s International Building Code (IBC) which is utilized by the many U.S. jurisdictions—is because their safe design, manufacture and installation depend on several building-specific factors. These include flooring, soils, anchoring, load type to be stored, handling equipment, and more. Geographic location and the potential for earthquakes in a region also impact rack design.

Notably, the IBC references RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks in section 2209.1 as the standard for safe design and installation of steel storage racks. The same specification is also referenced in the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code. Among the specific areas of inspection are confirmation of proper floor to rack anchoring, shop and field welding, fire protection flue spacing and egress distances.

For facility owners looking to ensure their rack installation complies with building codes, RMI recommends contacting the local building and planning department prior to commissioning a rack structure. Building inspectors should be considered a partner in the construction of the installation; they are an excellent resource to leverage for gaining a better understanding of the requirements, costs and the expected timeframe for plan review, permit processing, inspections, and final project approval.

Want more insights into how building codes and permitting pertain to racking? Check out these two previous posts: “How Do Building Codes Impact Rack Design And Installation?” and “Don’t Forget To Check Permitting Requirements For Your Proposed Rack Systems.”