Volume 52, Issue 4

It may sound silly to say that when I moved here, I drastically underestimated the difference in building techniques between the gulf side of the Mississippi and the origins of the Mississippi. A good example: It never really occurred to me that folks here don’t dig giant holes for their buildings! After 13 years of living/working/studying in Minnesota, I grew accustom to dealing with backfill and unit prices for excavation. After being here awhile, I thougtht perhaps I’d never see a spec for soil remediation ever again. Lo and behold, the exact subject became the source of news here in New Orleans very recently as area playgrounds (and children’s blood levels) were found to contain high levels of lead: so high, in fact, they nearly triple those deemed as maximum acceptable levels in Minnesota (see chart above). Aside from remediating area playgrounds as reported recently in the Times Picayune and nola.com, how might we deal with lead levels on our building sites? The author of many a research article and Research Professor at Tulane /Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, Howard Mielke, recommends the following as a starting point (abbreviated from a recent phone conversation):

Do not scrape & remove existing soil (it just exports the problem)
Bring in minimum 6” clean soil in locations where soil has the potential to become exposed
‘Clean’ means max 20ppm lead, tested by the LSU Ag Center

Volume 52, Issue 1

Imagine my surprise when, after 13 years of living in Minnesota and being told that a handrail needs to be an inch and a half away from a wall, I learned that the Louisiana State fire marshal not only enforces accessibility AND life safety but requires the handrail to be two and a quarter inches away from the wall!

“Lynn, meet the NFPA 101.” (a book I had never opened before)

Amidst my amazement that a State enforced something other than the series of International [insert trade here] Codes with its own series of amendments, I decided to find out who else has adopted the NFPA 101 as its life safety code. Turns out, not that many do and with no particular regional bent (see map below).

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to attending a day-long seminar in Kenner on January 26th, called “Building Codes in Louisana.” I have a lot to learn


NFPA 101 (2006) New handrails shall be installed to provide a clearance of not less than 2 ¼ in. (57 mm) between the handrail and the wall to which it is fastened.

Commentary: In earlier editions of the Code, a minimum 1 ½ in. (38 mm) clearance was required between a new handrail and the wall to which it was fastened. The current provision, as detailed in, increases the required minimum clearance to 2 ¼ in. (57 mm) for new handrails in recognition of the fact that 1 ½ in. (38 mm) is an inadequate clearance for both a normal grasp and an emergency grasp of the handrail.

The Wagner Companies “Clarifying Bracket Clearance” (date of publication unknown)

“The 2004 ADAAG — presently still making its way through the Federal approval process — now requires a 1-1/2″ minimum, as does the ICC, IRC and ANSI A117.1. Though the original ADAAG is still being applied across the country, the Access Board’s position is that the new ADAAG reflects their response to questions regarding accessibility and should supercede the 1992 guidelines.”