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Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Would the 2006 Edition of IBC/IFC consider steam to be a hazardous material?

This in effort to determine whether the seismic provisions apply for restraint of steam piping.  So, ASCE 7-2005 also factors in, and whether steam is considered hazardous, determins the Occupancy Category in ASCE 7.

ASCE IFC 2702 defines Hazardous Materials as having a Physical or Health hazard.  The physical hazard of steam is the potential for burns, which is related to the nearness and confinement of the release of steam to the person or persons.

It seems that steam would be a hazardous material under certain circumstances (high pressure piping in an occupied space), but not under others (a pot boiling on a stove).

Any interpretations that may apply?

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Sorry, typo with "ASCE IFC", should just read "IFC".

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Steam is not a hazardous material because it does not meet the definition of any of the physical or health hazard materials in Section 2701.2.2 of the 2006 IFC.

Following a similar logic, compressed air would also be a hazardous material, and that is not the intent of the code. You might as well as sand following this logic because you could die of silcosis.

The 2009 IFC was clarified to specifically exclude water, steam and compressed air.

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Stookeyfpe -

Thank you.  Do you know whether the 2009 IFC clarification is to steam without reference to superheat temperature, pressure, or room size?

I see a difference, due to the temperature of the fluid, and the potential rate of heat addition to a space, that makes steam stand apart from compressed air and water.  And I recall too many injurous steam pipe failure events in enclosed spaces, that would not have been as harmful if the fluid were compressed air or water.


RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Dear all, Just a wild thought
I don't know if the air pushing out by steam from a room/ occupancy to impact asphyxiation is a considerable aspect/scenario or not?

Best Regards

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

None of these scenarios drives a Hazardous occupancy and none of them drive ASCE 7 requirements for occupancy importance factors. Occupancy is the use and character of a building. You are attempting to take a building system and make it form a basis for seismic importance. It does not work that way in the 2006 IBC.

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Splendid info update!
Thanks Stookey!

Best Regards

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC


Okay, I think a mistake I made is that the material content of a single piping system alone, would define the Occupancy Category.

The Occupancy Category is III:  ...other structures...(...that process)...containing sufficient quantities of toxic...substances to be dangerous to the pubic if released.  [ASCE 7, Table 1-1]

Is steam a "hazardous material" with respect to the Component Importance Factor in ASCE 7, Para. 13.1.3, 1.?

Now the issue is not the "building system" or occupancy, but rather the system component importance.

Is your interpretation of IBC 2006, with an eye on IBC 2009, that steam piping would never be considered to be a component that contains hazardous mateials, and therefore an Ip of 1.0?

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

If your project is in the US, Table 1-1 is not the correct table. In the US, one would apply IBC Table 1604.5.

With that said, steam, compressed air, pressurized oil systems or any other material can always be hazardous but it depends on how and where it is released and who can be exposed. You're asking a question that I really can't answer because is this steam line outdoors in a refinery or is it in the middle of a elementary school classroom?

In the general context, I stand on my original statements. Under IBC Table 1604.5, steam would not drive an occupancy category factor.

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Our stookey now clearly guides the correct approach indeed!

Definitely;as indicated rightly by him 'For a closed containment of human occupancy' with very little or almost negligible air change-over.

Situations/ conditions may become hazardous with substantial release of at the least two items under discussion (i.e. Pressurized Steam& Pressurized Oil,Oil mist or even a combination)could prove dangerous/risky for the occupants.

Best Regards

RE: Steam Interpreted as Hazardous Material by IBC

Stookeyfpe -

Yes, IBC Table 1604.5 would apply, not ASCE Table 1.1.  However, the occupancy category would be the same.

One is Category III, with a process steam distribution main in a refinery, but it also has snuff steam for fire protection.

Another project is Category IV, with a steam distribution main in a hospital.

Both are in a state with no statewide building code, and we would choose to apply 2006 IBC, ASCE 7-2005, and ASME B31E.


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