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    Solar inhibiting code interpretations

    This may be a little more IBC than NEC, but there is no better source of experts for this topic than here.

    I've been challenged by a number of inspectors that my 'solar panels cannot be within 10' of the roof edge' (on a commercial flat roof) because of guard restrictions in the IBC. They are trying to treat solar modules as mechanical equipment for servicing needs. So either 10' in from the roof edge or install a guard rail.
    I've since shown them comments from the ICC that 'because solar modules have no moving parts and require no routine maintenance, they are not subject to the guard requirements of the IBC.' Even the 2012 IFC shows setbacks as little as 4' for commercial bldgs and that's just for Fire Service access.

    Now, one of those inspectors is saying that the solar array, in the center of a narrow roof, is blocking a pathway to the mechanical equipment. And i have to revise the layout (splitting it down the middle) and provide a pathway.
    i'm 6' in the from the edge all around.
    I'm not within 4' of any condensers or RTU's.
    I'm within all IFC conditions.
    Anyone can walk around the solar to get to the RTU's without incident; albeit within 10' of the roof edge.
    And the parapet is only 33".

    I understand the concept that anyone going up the roof to service equipment must be safe, tied off, etc. Safety first. Fine.
    But I know of no actual Code that requires 'an unobstructed pathway to mechanical equipment that is not less than 10' from the roof edge' on an unoccupied roof. IBC 1013 requires 'working area around the unit' but not an unobstructed pathway to get there. Egress rules have no basis on an unoccupied roof either.

    Any input or experience would be appreciated.

    #2
    Not sure whether it sheds any light on this particular application, but this article covers fire code compliance on commercial rooftops:

    Designing for Fire Code Compliance


    This compendium of solar provisions in the I-codes may also be of assistance:

    2015 International Solar Energy Provisions
    Last edited by SolarPro; 05-06-16, 02:01 PM.

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      #3
      I've never run into this problem myself, but when I am doing module layout I am careful not to cover existing pathways on the roof. Generally around mechanical equipment on membrane roofs there will be a built up path from the roof access to the equipment and a path around the equipment. I stay out of that area. I don't know of a particular code requirement for this, but I am not a IBC wizard and it might be in there. Outside of that I just try not to make someone else's job harder by making access to existing equipment unnecessarily harder.

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        #4
        Originally posted by pv_n00b View Post
        I've never run into this problem myself, but when I am doing module layout I am careful not to cover existing pathways on the roof. Generally around mechanical equipment on membrane roofs there will be a built up path from the roof access to the equipment and a path around the equipment. I stay out of that area. I don't know of a particular code requirement for this, but I am not a IBC wizard and it might be in there. Outside of that I just try not to make someone else's job harder by making access to existing equipment unnecessarily harder.
        I don't believe there is an IBC rule about this, but I believe it is prudent to leave uncovered existing pathways where there is additional roofing material laid down unless the customer OK's laying out arrays over them.

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