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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

02/22/2013

The Top 3 Code Milestones of 2012

How the upcoming model codes impact you, your tenants, and your pocketbook

By Ron Burton

 
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3) Conflict Resolution and Cost Savings

Remote Voting Offers Easier, More Affordable Option

Facing pressure for members to cut back on travel and time off work, ICC's Board of Directors has a new solution for persistent participation issues.

The problem:
Local and state building, fire, and other regulatory officials are currently underrepresented in the ICC voting process due to increasing emphasis on reducing travel, limiting time away from work, and demands to streamline operations. Participation among these governmental voting members has declined steadily since the ICC family of codes was first published in 2000. Involving this group, especially in balloting on modifications to future model codes, has historically been one of ICC's biggest challenges.

The solution:
During the Portland conference, ICC's Board of Directors approved far-reaching recommendations by its Code Development Process Steering Committee. Among them was remote balloting, starting with proposals for the 2015 edition of the International Green Construction Code. This option will become available in 2014 following hearings for the new proposals.

The effect:
These process changes, which will be added to the annual code development process after their 2014 debut, will dramatically alter the opportunities that commercial real estate and other industry groups have to influence future code content as more local building and fire officials will be able to participate.

Larger ICC member jurisdictions, such as states or major cities, are allowed up to 12 votes for each code regulatory agency. If a city has four code enforcement agencies – such as a building department, fire department, zoning agency, and environmental agency – that city or state ends up with 48 votes.

Few jurisdictions currently have more than three or four voting members at code hearings, but remote voting potentially results in another 44 votes – and that's for just one of approximately 30,000 jurisdictions in the U.S. The new challenge facing advocacy groups is how to reach remote voters who, by definition, won't be physically present at the hearings and thus won't be available for face-to-face discussion.

However, a planned suite of new tools on the horizon will soon help encourage more aggressive code advocacy programs for local and state-level commercial real estate professionals. Look for these in the near future – and prepare to get involved.

One major debate at last year's conference revolved around a proposal to mandate firefighter breathing air replenishment systems in every new high-rise building, plus a mandatory retrofit in existing high-rise buildings.

The idea was well-intended – firefighters could refill their air bottles in the building instead of heading back out to the truck. However, the proposal failed to account for the wide variation in pump pressure and other features that differ between manufacturers, so a replenishment system that works for one local fire department may not work for firefighters from a neighboring town who show up to assist.

The solution? A code appendix negotiated by BOMA and the National Multi Housing Council with system manufacturer and fire service proponents. The provisions in this appendix, which will be proposed in 2013, will allow local jurisdictions to choose whether or not to require these systems.

Additionally, the ICC board of directors opted to head off potential conflicts between the International Building Code and the International Existing Building Code. Currently, the IEBC includes the same provisions as Chapter 34 of the IBC, so the entire chapter was deleted in favor of a reference to the Existing Building Code to prevent future conflicts.

The conference also saw the defeat of a host of damaging proposals not included in the $3.50 per square foot calculation, including:

  • Water leak detection systems on all plumbing fixtures and water lines in new and existing buildings
  • Floor drain systems in all bathrooms and kitchen areas
  • Recirculation pumps for all hot water piping over 50 feet in length
  • Mandatory installation of tornado shelters in new and existing buildings located in wind map areas greater than 115 mph, a proposal that could add up to a staggering $2.50 per square foot to the compliance costs of buildings in tornado-prone areas
  • Required radon-reducing measures in buildings located in EPA-designated high radon probability areas

The next two code hurdles on the horizon will come in 2013 and 2014 with final hearings on 10 more revisions. The 15 ICC model codes are divided into three groups, each having a different timetable within the organization's three-year publication cycle. The Portland conference heralded final votes on the five Group A codes.

Group B, which will be heard later this year, includes updates to codes from energy conservation to zoning, while Group C (heard in 2014) focuses exclusively on the International Green Construction Code. After the final Group C votes in 2014, all 15 revisions will be published and become available for state and local adoption.

 

Ron Burton is president of PTW Advisors, LLC and the former vice president of codes, standards, and regulatory affairs for BOMA International.

 


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