Vote Could Prevent Use of Fire-Retardant Wood

Multifamily builders who use fire-retardant treated (FRT) wood need to be aware of the significant unintended consequences of an action taken at the International Code Council’s (ICC) Public Comment Hearings last October. Read what happened, then contact your local building official and urge them to vote to disapprove the code change.

The proposal in question is G170-15, as modified at the Public Comment Hearings. If G170-15 is approved, the 2018 ICC will no longer permit FRT wood to be used in load-bearing exterior walls of Types III and IV construction.

Builders would have to switch to concrete, masonry or heavy timber walls, or cold-formed steel construction to achieve the same building height and number of stories. Otherwise, they need to reduce the size of their building to fit within the bounds of Type V construction.

Realizing the unintended change caused by the modification, the ICC Building Code Action Committee (BCAC) – the original proponent of G170-15 – has withdrawn its support for the proposal.

In light of the BCAC’s action and the significant consequences, NAHB is urging a vote of Disapproval on G170-15.

How We Got Here

The BCAC drafted G170-15 to consolidate in a single list the allowances for combustible elements within buildings of Type I and II construction and for combustible materials within exterior bearing walls of Type III and IV construction. It did not intend to make technical changes to any of the existing allowances.

A public comment was submitted proposing an alternative reorganization to G170-15. Described as merely editorial and with all former provisions retained in context, it was approved at the public comment hearings.

Immediately following the vote, representatives of the treated wood industry approached the proponents present at the hearings. It quickly became evident the changes were not merely editorial as claimed, but in fact eliminated the ability to use FRT wood in load-bearing exterior walls of Types III and IV construction. This was contrary to the stated purpose of PC #2 and has been acknowledged as a mistake by both the public comment proponent and the BCAC, who both urge disapproval of G170.

The final ballot for ICC Online Government Consensus Vote only presents two options:

  1. Support the final action of Approved as Modified by Public Comment #2 (AMPC 2), or
  2. Oppose the final action.

A vote to oppose the action is necessary to prevent the approval of G170-15. The American Wood Council has posted a similar announcement urging code officials to vote for disapproval on G170 during the online voting period.

For more information on this issue and how to reach out to your local code officials, contact Gary Ehrlich.

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