In September 2008, the General Services Administration (GSA) came out against safety requirements for tall building construction adopted the previous year by the most commonly used building code, that of the International Code Council. The changes to the code were the result of a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in response to the 9/11 attacks. They include a third stairwell for buildings over 420 feet (40 stories) to make it easier for occupants to evacuate and improved fireproofing to give them more time to do so. For building taller than 75 feet, the code calls for glow in the dark markings in stairwells in case the electricity goes as often happens in fires. While the GSA is exempt from following these requirements, it usually adheres to local codes.
The requirements are also opposed by real estate developers and building owners who say they will increase building costs and decrease revenues by reducing the amount of space available for rent. In other words, in this post-9/11 world we keep hearing about, they are willing to put the lives of the occupants of the buildings they construct and own at risk to maximize their profits. And in this most anti-regulatory of Administrations, the government is perfectly willing to let them do so.
However, neither the GSA nor the building and landlord groups are the last word on this. The 2009 version of the code will be voted by building code officials from around the country in mid-September 2008.