If You Build It, Will They Come?

Julie Ruth
June 27, 2014
COLUMN : Code Arena | Codes & Standards
Or, more specifically, if you publish a new model code, will people adopt and enforce it? With the advent of the International Codes in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the International Code Council was correct in its assumption that states and local jurisdictions would adopt the new codes. Although the 2000 International Building Code and 2000 International Residential Code were not widely adopted, the 2003 editions—and every edition since—have been. And despite a perceived delay, the 2012 IBC and 2012 IRC are now being enforced statewide in 12 states and by local jurisdictions in another five.
The ICC operated under a similar assumption when it developed and published the International Performance Code; however, that code is not widely used or enforced, having only been adopted by a dozen or so local jurisdictions. Prior to 2013, no code-change proposals had ever been received for this code, earning it the nickname “the perfect code” since no one felt compelled to change it. But in 2013, four codechange proposals were submitted. Does this mean the code is no longer perfect, or does it mean that people are actually starting to use it?
Then there was the National Fire Protection Agency’s NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code, designed to compete with the 2000 IBC and 2000 IRC. NFPA couldn’t even give it away! It offered to provide the book free of charge to jurisdictions that adopted it. But despite some initial response, the code quickly faded away.
ICC also partnered with the National Association of Home Builders in 2007 to develop ICC 700/NAHB National Green Building Standard-12. Only a couple of jurisdictions in Colorado and Arizona have adopted that standard. According to the NAHB, however, thousands of dwelling units and developed lots have been certified as being in compliance with this document, which is currently undergoing revision.
Which brings us to the International Green Construction Code: It has been adopted on a non-mandatory basis in five states, and on a mandatory basis in the District of Columbia. Surely the revenue received by the ICC from the sale of IgCC code books in these areas cannot begin to cover the expenses they have incurred to develop this code. So the question becomes, how viable is the IgCC going forward? At what point will, or should, the ICC cut its losses and discontinue this new product line?
The question of adoptability was discussed during the ICC Sustainability Council meeting on April 27 before the IgCC hearings began in Memphis. Some parties argued that adoption of the 2000 IRC and 2000 IBC was also scant, and there was no reason to be concerned about the tepid response to the 2012 IgCC. Others countered that the 2000 IBC and 2000 IRC replaced the legacy codes that adopting jurisdictions had relied on prior to the publication of the International Codes. Therefore, jurisdictions that wished to update their codes had little choice but to adopt the International Codes. That scenario does not apply to the IgCC.
If the IgCC does not begin to generate significant revenue for the ICC within the next few years, will the ICC have any choice but to discontinue maintenance of the document? The ICC has continued to offer the IPC even though it is not widely used, but maintenance of that document has cost little or nothing, since no proposals to change it were received prior to the 2013 ICC code-change cycle.
The ICC has stated that it remains committed to the IgCC and has indicated that it has no plans to discontinue its ongoing maintenance and development.
If the ICC were truly committed to the long-term success and viability of the IgCC, it should have chosen committee members who shared that commitment. Reasons given by jurisdictions that have reviewed it and chosen not to adopt it include the following: “It’s too complex,” and “There are many sections that are redundant to existing criteria in other I-codes.”
Now simplifying the code will fall to the ICC governmental members who attend the public comment hearings this fall, and those who participate in cdpAccess, to determine whether this document will continue to be viable, or if it will go the route of the ICC IPC or NFPA 5000.
That being said, some of the more significant results from the ICC Group C Code Change Hearings in Memphis concerning residential fenestration, are as follows.

Application to Residential Buildings

The 2012 IgCC leaves it up to the adopting jurisdiction to decide if one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses three stories or less in height, and multifamily and assisted-living facilities four stories or less in height, are to be built in accordance with ICC 700. If the local jurisdiction does not choose this option, the IgCC is to be used.
The 2012 IgCC also specifies that multifamily or assisted-living buildings five or more stories in height, or multifamily or assisted-living portions
of mixed-use buildings, that comply with ICC 700 with minimum energy efficiency at the Silver performance level, are considered compliant with the 2012 IgCC. To achieve the Silver performance level, the energy efficiency of the home must exceed that of one built to the 2012 IECC by 30 percent if performance-based design is used. If the prescriptive path is used, a combination of reduced area weighted average building thermal envelope U-factor, improved HVAC efficiency, and building envelope and ductwork tightness must be used to achieve the targeted point value for energy efficiency, with a maximum cap on fenestration performance of approximately 10 percent greater than the 2012 IECC.
No proposals for change were approved. Therefore, high-rise and low-rise residential buildings may or may not be governed by the IgCC or ICC 700, depending upon the choices made by the adopting jurisdiction.

Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment

The new ASTM standard for Whole Building LCA, ASTM E2921, was approved for reference in the 2015 IgCC. Perhaps that ASTM E2921 will provide better direction on the performance of LCA than the previously referenced standard, ISO 14044.

Environmental Product Declarations

The committee approved enhanced recognition of materials with EPDs. The method approved will increase the total percentage of materials in the building that must comply with the material selection section from 50 percent to 75 percent, with a multiplier of 1.5 to be applied for materials with EPDs. Although AAMA supported enhanced recognition of EPDs, it had opposed this method of doing so because it was written in vague, unenforceable language.
A floor motion for disapproval of this proposal was made. This motion will be voted online. If successful, a public comment for disapproval will be considered at the final action hearings.

Permanent Shading Devices

Provisions for interior or exterior automatic shading devices as one acceptable method of providing permanent shading were approved for the 2015 IgCC. AAMA opposed the proposal because reflective interior shading devices can cause damaging heat buildup in the glass on the exterior side of those devices.

Prescriptive Energy

When prescriptive energy is used under the 2015 IgCC, the U-factor and SHGC must both be 5 percent lower than that given in the 2015 IECC for the same climate zone and product category. In the 2012 IgCC, both the U-factor and SHGC must be 10 percent lower than the corresponding values in the 2012 IECC. AAMA supported the removal of this increase in stringency entirely and reference to the 2015 IECC for prescriptive energy requirements.

Moisture Control

The installation of exterior window and door flashing, along with other moisture-control provisions of the IgCC and IBC, will be handled as Special Inspections in the 2015 IgCC. Two other proposals that would have removed the provisions for installation of moisture control from the IgCC and relied entirely upon the IBC for it, however, were disapproved. AAMA supported both changes.

Replacement Fenestration

When an existing fenestration unit is replaced under the 2015 IgCC, it will be required to comply with the 2015 IECC’s prescriptive provisions. If an exterior wall or roof/ceiling assembly is replaced, however, either the prescriptive or performance-based requirements of the 2015 IECC for new construction can be used. This action is consistent with AAMA’s position.

Next Steps

Those proposals for which an assembly motion was made were voted on via cdpAccess in late May. Any party may choose to submit a public comment by July 16 challenging any of the results. AAMA will hold meetings over the next few months to determine what committee action should be challenged via public comment and to develop those PCs.

Code Arena is brought to you by the America Architectural Manufacturers Association. Julie Ruth may be reached through AAMA at 847/303-5664 or via e-mail at julruth@aol.com.