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You Could Influence the Codes

We made it through another year. In fact, 2010 is the beginning of my sixth year with the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you. I hope you and your families had a joyous holiday season and are prepared for the year to come. There are many items on the plate for this year that will make for some interesting times and trips for me and other code-minded industry types. I want to continue on the subject of building codes that I started in the December issue.

In December I brought you up-to-date on the International Energy Conservation Code; this month I’d like to discuss the International Building Code and how you can have to most impact on the version of the code that you work under. As I said last month, the people who testify at code hearings (for the most part) are consultants who are paid to represent special interest groups. These people are professional code consultants who attend each and every code hearing and are well known to the committee members. I am not suggesting that we disregard the national code hearing or hire a code consultant, but you can have an effect on the local level to a greater degree than on the national level because you probably know the people in your locality who sit on the committees that make changes to the model codes.

The model codes are revised on a three-year cycle, but there are rumors that the cycle will change to a five years. At the local level, the building code is at least two—if not three—cycles behind the current model code. The reason behind this is that the state or municipal code bodies have to review the latest model code version prior to adopting it. In many cases, many changes are made to the model code before it is applied locally. The process for these changes is somewhat similar to but not necessarily exactly the same as the procedures used on the national level for the model codes. Public hearings are conducted to determine what changes will be adopted prior to updating the building code on a local level. Many states have a statewide building code while others still adopt a model for a specific municipality.

This is where you as a contractor come into play. Like I said earlier, you probably know some of the people who sit on your local building code committees. These committee members want to hear from you. They want to know the effect of the changes they are about to adopt. It does require time to get involved, but remember that you will be conducting business under these new codes. In some cases there will be subtle changes that you and your managers will be not be aware of until the building inspector tells you.

One of AWCI’s contractor members has been having an ongoing fight with his local inspectors and their interpretation of a section of the building code. He has tried to have the governing standard changed. We all know this is a long and drawn-out process. I made the suggestion that he approach the local building officials and discuss the interpretation. If that approach fails he should appear at the next code adoption hearing and suggest language to clear up the misinterpretation in his particular area of concern. This is a specific geographical issue and has a higher probability of success than approaching the issue from a national level.

Where do you start? The International Code Council has local chapters that deal with codes on the state level. A search of the ICC Web site,, will help you find the chapters and its meeting times. Drill in a little further and find the members of the committees. See if you know someone on the committee, and reach out to him or her to discover how you can get involved. Determine the schedule for the next code change hearing, when and where the hearings are going to be held. If you cannot attend, select one of your project managers and assign him the duty of following the hearings to determine what, if any, position your organization needs to take. This is proactive stance that will help you downstream and also level the playing field.

Remember, there are a lot of significant changes under way at the national level. These changes will directly affect how you do business in the future and can have a direct bearing on your bottom line.

Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. Send your questions to or call him directly at (703) 538.1611.

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