Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
2013 California Green Building Code
As it applys to Masonry Fireplaces and Chimneys
5/16/15

CHAPTER 4
RESIDENTIAL MANDATORY MEASURES

SECTION 4.503
FIREPLACES
4.503.1 General. Any installed gas fireplace shall be a direct-vent sealed-combustion type. Any installed woodstove or pellet stove shall comply with U.S. EPA Phase II emission limits where applicable. Woodstoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces shall also comply with applicable local ordinances.

SECTION 5.503
FIREPLACES
5.503.1 General. Install only a direct-vent sealed-combustion gas or sealedwood-burning fireplace, or a sealedwoodstove or pellet stove, and refer to residential requirements in the California Energy Code, Title 24, Part 6, Subchapter 7, Section 150. Woodstoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces shall comply with applicable local ordinances.

SECTION A4.503
FIREPLACES
(Reserved)

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11/24/14

Discouraged with the regulations in California, I though the Gas Rumfords were a way around the wood-burning blockage only to find out that the California Green Builcding Code doesn't allow any gas fireplace except a "direct vent sealed firebox" type and that does not mean a chimney and glass doors.

That would seem to put us out of the wood-burning fireplace business in the most populated areas of California and out of the gas log business everywhere in California.

I called the California Green Building Code Administrator, Tom Maken. He merely read the code to me but said several times during our converstaion that ultimately it was up to the local code official. I thought that odd but maybe I was too dense and it was a hint that they are not enforcing the code. Both the projects I was calling about ended up being approved locally. A historic residence in San Francisco where the architects want gas-burning Rumford fireplaces to look as much like the original 1890 fireplaces as possible, were approved provided power vents and glass fronts were installed. A new hotel in Paso Robles where they want a big five foot wide gas-burning fireplace in the lobby was approved when the owner of the hotel went in to get the permit. The next week a noted SF architect built two Rumfords in Sonoma County without permits.

What does that all mean? Can the local building official decide not to enforce the code if he doesn't want to? Can you build without permits if you are big enough or rich enough? I did think that I would push the limits with the regulators and see what the intent of the California Green Builcding Code is and offer a safe and legal masonry alternative for local building officials to approve - maybe a sealed firebox with 100% outside combustion air and a regular chimney. Or maybe I should just relax, try to sell Rumfords in the mountains or to people who have lawyers and go with the emerging underground movement.

Tom Maken suggested that I contact Kyle Krouse, who basically worte the fireplace sections of the California Green Builcding Code.

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11/24/14
Kyle Krause

Kyle,

Sorry I missed your call last Friday. Tom Marken said you had helped develop the fireplace sections of the California Green Building Code and could probably help me.

Here are the two sections with which we are concerned:

    SECTION 4.503
    FIREPLACES
    4.503.1 General. Any installed gas fireplace shall be a direct-vent sealed-combustion type. Any installed woodstove or pellet stove shall comply with U.S. EPA Phase II emission limits where applicable. Woodstoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces shall also comply with applicable local ordinances.

    SECTION 5.503
    FIREPLACES
    5.503.1 General. Install only a direct-vent sealed-combustion gas or sealed wood-burning fireplace, or a sealed woodstove or pellet stove, and refer to residential requirements in the California Energy Code, Title 24, Part 6, Subchapter 7, Section 150. Woodstoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces shall comply with applicable local ordinances.

What is the intent of the CA Green Building Code - to be consistent with the California Building Code, the California Energy Code and local air quality regulations? Or to be more restrictive?

Specifically what is meant by .....

"Direct vent" - Does this just mean a chimney as opposed to vent-free? Or does it require power-venting?

"Sealed-combustion type" or "sealed wood-burning" - Does this mean fireplace doors as required by the California Energy Code? Or is something more than fireplace doors required?

Finally, I don't understand the differences between Section 4 (residential) and Section 5 (commercial). Are they meant to be related like the IRC and IBC or are there some differences? We currently have two customers asking us for direction. One is in a historic residence in San Francisco where the architects want gas-burning Rumford fireplaces to look as much like the original 1890 fireplaces as possible and the other is in a new hotel in Paso Robles where they want a big five foot wide gas-burning fireplace in the lobby.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Jim Buckley

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Krause, Kyle@HCD
11/24/14

Good morning Jim,

Allow me to try to clarify,

The mandatory requirements for gas fireplaces, pellet stoves, woodstoves, and fireplaces in CALGreen Section 4.503 have been the same since January 1, 2011.

The requirements for gas fireplaces in CALGreen Section 4.503.1. are intended to improve indoor air quality by preventing products of combustion from entering the home. CALGreen requirements for gas fireplaces do not conflict with the California Energy Code, however address indoor air quality issues, rather than energy efficiency issues.

See the CALGreen Guide page 40-41:
http://www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/shl/CALGreen_Guide_REV_12-13.pdf

CALGreen Requires any pellet stove or woodstove to be EPA Phase II compliant.
CALGreen does not use the term "sealed wood-burning"
CALGreen does not regulate wood burning fireplaces, but defers to local regulations (ordinances). Note: Many Air Quality Districts in CA prohibit the new installation of wood burning appliances.

Direct-Vent Appliance is defined in CALGreen Chapter 2. (see below) There are currently (at least) 2 types of "Direct-Vent" methods, both which draw all air for combustion from outdoors, and discharge all products of combustion directly to the outdoors through either coaxial or co-linear vent pipes.

    DIRECT-VENT APPLIANCE. A fuel-burning appliance with a sealed combustion system that draws all air for combustion from the outside atmosphere and discharges all flue gases to the outside atmosphere.

Answers to your other questions:

  • Direct-Venting does not 'just mean a chimney' - as you asked, it is a specific type of listed venting used on listed direct-vent appliances.
  • Sealed-combustion type does not mean "fireplace doors" - as you asked required by Title 24, Part 6. Direct-vent appliances are non-operable (no doors) and provide a sealed combustion chamber.

  • The term used in CALGreen is "direct-vent sealed-combustion type" this does not mean a gas fireplace equipped with power venting.

  • Chapter 4 is the mandatory measures for Residential Projects. Chapter 5 is the mandatory measures for Nonresidential projects.

    Kyle Krause
    Codes and Standards Administrator I
    State Housing Law Program Manager
    Division of Codes and Standards
    CA Department of Housing and Community Development
    (916) 263-4719
    Kyle.Krause@hcd.ca.gov
    CAL Green Logo__Outline_REGISTERED (2)_75%

    *****

    Note: The answers given by Kyle Krause appear to be beyond the specific language in the code. The California Green Building Code doesnt actually require in that a "direct-vent sealed-combustion type" fireplace be a listed appliance. One could argue that to comply with the intent of the code - "to improve indoor air quality by preventing products of combustion from entering the home" - a masonry fireplace with a sealled glass front, exterior air directly to the firebox and a chimney would suffice.

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