Designing Buildings for DSA Approval

Romtec designs, supplies, and constructs buildings and structures to meet or exceed any local, state, or federal building codes across the country. Some regions maintain strict code requirements that are enforced at a high-level for the building and its components. These requirements are typically related to protecting the lives of building occupants and maintaining structural functionality after disasters. Buildings for schools and essential services (like hospitals, police stations, or emergency buildings) are a prime example of where these codes are typically enforced. Buildings designed for these facilities often require a specific approval. In California, the Division of the State Architect, DSA, is the reviewer of new construction and renovations in these applications.

All 50 states have similar requirements for these buildings, and the DSA approval process is one of the most well-defined examples of this type of building code approval. The primary reason why there are strict requirements in some construction applications and not others is related to the function of the building. According to the DSA website, the only structures that require DSA approval are for the new construction and/or renovations to buildings in K-12 public schools, community colleges, public universities, and essential service buildings. All of these buildings have the potential to house students, children, and large gatherings of people or provide vital services in the event of an emergency. Each building for these applications will require additional structural supports, fire/life safety considerations, and ADA accessibility included in their design before receiving DSA approval.

Essential service buildings, or “critical facilities,” are buildings that would substantially impact the community if they became unusable, especially after a disaster. Hospitals, disaster relief stations, and even storm shelters are essential buildings, and in California, they must be able to withstand all types of natural forces while protecting occupants and retaining structural integrity throughout a disaster. Depending on the building location and the types of disaster it may encounter, each building must meet unique life and safety codes related to structural and seismic design specifications. Many safety features (like multiple exits, smoke alarms, and fire barriers) are often required in public use buildings, but when seeking DSA approval, additional life/safety equipment may be required. One project in Westminster, California required Romtec to include these fire/life safety equipment and a gypsum fire barrier to separate the two classified spaces in the event of a fire.

Park Concession Restroom with a Shingled Roof and Skylights

Romtec’s site-specific approach to building design makes meeting any and all structural, fire/life safety, and accessibility requirements a straightforward process. Our expert Engineering Team designs each building as a site-specific package to meet every project’s unique design requirements, especially when there is DSA or similar approval required. One new restroom at Bryte Park in West Sacramento is in a shared park used by an elementary school. This required Romtec to include additional structural supports to meet seismic design criteria to receive DSA approval. Romtec met these requirements by reinforcing the CMU walls with steel rebar and the roof structure with glulam beams. Additionally, the building met all ADA requirements with enough space in each unisex restroom to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair with California grab bars to support safe use.

Meeting and exceeding all local, state, and federal code requirements is one of the many advantages of choosing Romtec. Our site-specific, packaged buildings are designed according to your project’s unique structural, fire/life safety, and accessibility requirements while including any visual design features desired. Receiving approval from the DSA, building departments, and other similar agencies should not be a concern or a delay for any project. Our comprehensive documentation package has been developed over many years to streamline this process, so projects can get approved and move through construction faster. Contact Romtec to get started on your school, college, and essential service building project today!

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