WOCDs in the Replacment Market

April 30, 2013
Legal Alert

Recent code editions previously have prescribed requirements for minimum sill heights in new construction to lessen the risk of a fall through a window opening. That minimum height may be avoided if the opening is filled with a window that will not open, or if the unit is equipped with a fall prevention device, such as a window opening control device (WOCD).

While jurisdictions across the country enforce different versions of the codes, many already have the requirement for minimum sill heights at specified openings. For windows 72 inches or more above the grade outside the window, the 2012 International Residential Code requires a minimum 24-inch sill height \, and the 2012 International Building Code requires a minimum 36-inch sill height.

As noted, there are exceptions to the minimum sill height based upon the nature of the window product installed. Exceptions include windows that do not open more than 4 inches and windows that have installed window guards or a WOCD. While a WOCD is essentially a releasable window stop, it has very specific operating requirements, as well as installation and warning documentation requirements. These devices must comply with ASTM F 2090 (for windows below 75 feet) or ASTM F 2006 (for windows above 75 feet).

Do these requirements apply to the replacement business? During the week of April 21, the International Code Council commenced its Committee Action Hearings and approved a new code proposal bringing the relationship between sill height and window operation, already prescribed for new construction, to the process of window replacement. Under the new proposal, replacing a window at an elevation falling within prescribed parameters may require use of a WOCD.

In many circumstances, the replacement business is an entirely different market segment, and the people involved are less familiar with tracking “code.” However, it is important that participants become aware of the new rules before the code is adopted in their area. It may be wise to anticipate this change as an emerging standard now and begin to adapt business practices accordingly.

To be specific, the proposal requires WOCDs to be installed on replacement windows in “Group R-2 or R-3 buildings containing dwelling units and one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses regulated by the International Residential Code” where the following apply:

  1. the window is operable,
  2. the sash and frame are being replaced,
  3. the top of the sill of the opening is less than 36 inches above the finished floor,
  4. when the window will open to allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere,
  5. and the vertical distance from the top of the sill of the window opening to the finished grade of the exterior surface below is 72 inches. Again, WOCDs must comply with ASTM F 2090 or ASTM F 2006.

Before final ICC approval, it will be smart for replacement window companies now to work toward establishing a program to offer WOCDs to prospective purchasers. Not only does this include research and development to identify WOCDs that will work with existing products, but it also includes strict compliance with the applicable ASTM documentation standards. ASTM F 2090, for example, includes very specific requirements for installation instructions, safety instructions for occupants, and labeling the WOCD. Additionally, prudent window companies should create and maintain an effective method for notifying dealers and consumers that WOCDs are available for purchase.

This Legal Alert is presented by Paul Gary and Susan MacKay, attorneys at the Gary Law Group based in Portland, Ore. The firm specializes in legal services for the window and door industry. More information is available at www.prgarylaw.com.  Contact Gary at paul@prgarylaw.com for further information or to receive the firm's "Risk in the Fenestration Industry” quarterly newsletter.