#137 – What is an AHJ?

By Bill Ford & Mary Raines

What is an AHJ?

One of the few NFPA “Official” Definitions contained in the NFPA Codes and Standards is the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) - an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment materials, or an installation, or a procedure.
This is a very broad definition which is further broken down in the Annex (NFPA A.3.2.2). The Annex provides examples of various AHJs (or those in charge who exercise their authority within a specific limit or territory). Examples are, but not limited to:
  • Local Fire Dept ensuring life safety.
  • Insurance Company dealing with property they insure.
  • State and Federal organizations taking care of state or federal properties (e.g., the Army)
To help you become aware of who will be the AHJ(s) for your building project, find the answers to the following.
  1. What Regulatory agency is responsible for doing the plan review and the approval of the installation?
    • If the project involves a Federal Facility often these facilities are exempt from local and State enforcement laws, ordinances and rules. Buildings may be regulated by the General Services Administration, or the branch of the military for the type of facility where the work is being performed
      1. For example, if you were working on a federal project at the federal level, the AHJ could be somebody from the government services administration.
    • If working on a state project, it may be a state regulatory building agency.
      1. Some very rural states that do not have dense population centers, might have a statewide building regulatory agency.
      2. In most jurisdictions, it might be a municipal building department or local building regulatory agency. In some unincorporated, rural areas, it might be a county wide building authority or building department.
    Bottom line, you need to identify the agency that is going to be part of your installation and approval process.
  2. Who is going to come do the final acceptance? For example, in a highly protected risk insurance project with a Factory Mutual insured facility, the insurer (customer) might be part of the AHJ.
AHJThere may be more than just one AHJ for a building project because there are different AHJs for different disciplines (e.g., electrical, plumbing, fire, etc.). Because most projects are multifaceted, a building department, a state fire marshal, and a local fire department (and maybe others), all acting as AHJs, may be involved in the same building project.

In summary, identifying the authority having jurisdiction can at first seem simple, but can quickly become complex depending on the scope of the project.