Codes Voting Tool Saves Time and Money… It Just Needs Voters

When the International Code Council (ICC) debuted cdpACCESS, its online discussion and voting tool for proposed changes to the ICC family of building codes, it had high hopes that the tool would be a game changer.

Laptop_Contractor_blueprints_techWith cdpACCESS, building and fire code officials and others authorized to vote can save money and time by voting from their desktops rather than traveling to week-long code hearings. This was supposed to allow cash-strapped towns and counties to be a larger part of the development of the codes they adopt.

It hasn’t yet worked out that way.

After hearings in the fall of 2015, 5,679 governmental member voting representatives from 1,416 eligible jurisdictions were validated to cast their votes online. But the highest number of votes cast for any single proposed code change was only 297 — a 5% participation rate — and the average number of votes cast for each proposed code change was only 168.

So while there are more eligible voters, they aren’t voting — not by a long shot. “This is a real problem,” said NAHB Construction, Codes and Standards committee chair Phillip Hoffman.

“Generally, building and code officials tend to support life safety and energy proposals that are cost effective, just like home builders do. Unfortunately, when so few get around to voting, it makes it easier to pack the list of eligible voters with folks who have a particular agenda, like fire sprinkler mandates or proposals that benefit certain product manufacturers.”

Overall, NAHB was 84% successful in advocating for the positions taken on 260 of the 1,330 total proposed code changes, and it was 88% successful in advocating its positions on 183 code changes that were identified as either “important,” “very important” or “critical” by our members.

Code Hearings, Round 2

Now, it’s on to the next series of votes: NAHB has taken positions on 624 of the 1,994 proposed changes to the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), supporting 119 and opposing 505.

NAHB submitted 25 energy code change proposals to make the IECC more practical. The proposed changes include reinstating equipment efficiency trade-offs, improving the usability of the new Energy Rating Index and reducing requirements that are well beyond NAHB’s cost-effectiveness criteria of a 10-year payback.

Many other proposals will have significant impacts on the housing industry if approved.

An IRC proposed code change would remove the residential fire sprinkler mandate for one- and two-family homes and townhomes. Another would relocate these residential fire sprinkler requirements into an optional appendix.

Other important proposals would severely restrict building heights of apartment and condominium buildings or require NFPA 13 fire sprinkler systems to be installed in the attic spaces. Currently, fire sprinkler protection is not required in attics.

Another proposed code change would mandate temporary fire apparatus access roads and 24/7 fire watches during construction.

Also, the recent edition of ASCE 7-2016, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, is being proposed as a reference in the 2018 I-Codes. This updated standard will have severe structural design implications for the high wind and seismic areas of the country.

NAHB will advocate to keep the 2010 edition as the referenced standard. This will allow further research and testing to be performed on the affected structural building materials and components.

The public comment hearings begin Oct. 19 in Kansas City, Mo. In the meantime, it’s more important than ever to maintain relationships with code officials — encouraging them to be engaged in the process and vote. For additional information, contact Neil Burning.

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  1. Stephen says:

    Wonder why licensed builders don’t get to vote? There livelihoods are affected more than any other stakeholder but have no say!

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