ICC Refines Code Change Process

Julie Ruth
September 8, 2011
COLUMN : Code Arena | Codes & Standards

The International Code Council is finalizing the last of its 2012 International Codes. Final action on their existing codes, which include the International Building Code, International Residential Code and International Energy Conservation Code was completed in November 2010. This November. the organizationis taking final action on its two newest codes–the International Green Construction Code and the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code.

As the final details of the two newest codes are worked out, the ICC board of directors is reviewing changes it has made to its own code change procedures over the past few years. The review has led to a few further refinements.

The changes included splitting the 13 existing International Codes into two groups and having just one cycle of code development for each group between each edition of those codes. Code development on the first set of codes–Group A–will occur in 2013. Group A codes include the IBC, which is the base code for all the other International Codes.  Code development for the second set or Group B codes will occur in 2014. Group B codes include the IRC, IECC and IgCC.

The purpose of having one cycle of code development for each new edition of the International Codes is to reduce the amount of time required to be spent at code hearings in order to encourage more people to fully participate in the process. The new schedule also allows the final action hearings for each group of codes to be held in conjunction with one of the ICC’s annual business meetings.

This change has resulted in shorter code hearings schedules. The last time hearings for all of the International Codes were held together was in 2009. Those hearings occurred over a total of 16 days. The length of hearings each day was a minimum of 12 hours, and in some cases extended as long as 16 hours. In contrast, the final action hearings for the Group A codes took a total of eight days. The final action hearings for the Group B codes took a total of seven days. The average length of the days was also reduced, with some days actually meeting the goal of being no more than 10 hours long.

This condensed schedule of hearings, however, has raised some concerns with regards to time available for consideration of each code change proposal brought forth. The code change committees themselves will only be considering each code change proposal one time between editions of the International Codes. And the code change proponents are permitted only a very limited amount of time to explain the reason the change is needed to the committee before they vote on it.

In order to allow more time for discussion of some of the more complicated issues considered during the code development cycle, the ICC board created a Code Technology Committee in 2006. The ICC board has the ability to assign specific topics to the CTC for further study. In some cases these assignments are made as a result of a recommendation from the ICC code change committee, based upon topics they think warrant further study.

The ICC CTC has had a certain level of success. Most specific to our industry has been the development of an exception to the minimum window sill height requirements for windows equipped with window opening control devices (WOCDs). This exception will be included in both the 2012 IRC and 2012 IBC.

Code Action Committees
Extending the concept of the CTC, the ICC has also established four discipline-specific code action committees. The new groups will “act as a forum to deal with complex technical issues ahead of the code development process, identify emerging issues and draft proposed code changes of importance to the membership.”

Two of these ICC committees of potential significance to our industry will be the Building Code Action Committee and the ICC Fire Code Action Committee. The ICC Building Code Action Committee will be responsible for Chapters 10, 16, 17 and 24 of the IBC. These chapters give the means of egress and structural requirements for fenestration. The ICC Fire Code Action Committee will govern Chapter 14. The requirements for weatherization of the exterior building envelope, including the installation of exterior windows and doors, are given in Chapter 14 of the IBC. A joint meeting of these two committees was held in Chicago in September in order to meet January 3, 2012, deadline for code change proposals to the 2015 IBC.

A third ICC code action committee of potential significance to our industry will be the ICC Sustainability, Energy & High-Performance Building Code Action Committee. This committee will be responsible for the IECC and the IgCC. These two codes will both be Group B codes. The deadline for code change proposals for these codes will not be until January 2013. A meeting of this group is not yet scheduled.

Assembly Voting
As part of its overall review, the ICC board also voted to retain a number of other changes that were made in recent years to the ICC code change process. These include retaining the use of assembly voting at the code development hearings and continuing to restrict the final vote on the content of the International Codes to representatives of active ICC members (those responsible for the enforcement of these codes by a local jurisdiction).

Although the ICC board has established a goal of putting into place remote voting by 2015, it is not anticipated it will be used during the 2012 ICC code change cycle.

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.