ICC Hearings Decide on CO Alarms, Foundation Wall Anchors and More
The culmination of the code amendment cycle for 2006 and 2007, the May 21-26 final action hearings of the International Code Council (ICC) ended in Rochester, N.Y. last week with a wide range of decisions of importance to the nation’s home building industry.
In each amendment cycle, through written and oral testimony NAHB actively advocates practical, cost-effective building codes for the International Residential Code (IRC) and the ICC’s other model codes.
In Rochester, building code and fire officials reconsidered more than 650 proposed amendments out of the more than 2,200 decided upon at initial public hearings held by ICC last fall. State and local jurisdictions designated these representatives to consider all the proposals and vote on them after hearing extensive testimony on each one.
NAHB prepared testimony on some 250 proposals of particular concern to the home building industry, especially those amending the IRC. As a result, voting officials agreed with home builders that a number of proposals should be rejected. Among the most significant proposals:
- CO alarms. Home builders and code officials continue to be concerned about the reliability of carbon monoxide detectors and the lack of consistent guidance regarding their placement. At the final hearings, ICC members agreed with NAHB and local officials and denied a proposal to mandate the detectors. The decision is also in line with the ICC Code Technology Committee’s finding that there is insufficient validation to support a recommendation to mandate them in the IRC.
- Basement insulation. NAHB members and others persuaded officials to vote against expanding mandatory requirements for basement insulation into mild climates as far south as southern Georgia, parts of Alabama, New Mexico, Arizona and other warmer states where none is now required.
- Foundation wall anchorage. Supporters were successful in removing a new, onerous requirement that was approved in the last code cycle — without adequate substantiation — that significantly increased foundation anchorage requirements. The proposal would have required anchor bolts every 7½ to 8 inches on center in many cases, instead of every 6 feet.
- Fire resistance ratings. A proposal was struck down that would have doubled the minimum fire resistance ratings of corridors in multifamily buildings without any substantiation that the current requirements are inadequate or pose a safety threat to occupants.
- Prohibitive multifamily renovation requirements. Two proposals were also struck down that would have required all existing multifamily dwelling units built before 1991 to be made compliant with the same Fair Housing accessibility requirements that multifamily units built after 1991 must currently comply with under federal law.
The new requirements would have been triggered by renovations, restorations, alterations and other actions. NAHB argued that such onerous requirements would be impractical in many cases, and discourage — or even prohibit — the updating of many buildings, including those that would make improvements to occupant safety.
NAHB builder members who also participated in the proceedings said they were pleased with the success of other provisions. For instance, ICC officials voted to include in the code a provision that allows for the construction of unvented attics by installing the air barrier and insulation directly above the attic space. This method improves energy conservation and reduces wear and tear on equipment that is placed in the attic, as well as other items stored there.
“What NAHB did was stand up and lay out the facts,” said NAHB Construction Codes & Standards Committee Chair Eric Borsting, who attended the hearing along with a dozen other members and staff.
With some proposals, such as the one that would have mandated carbon monoxide detectors, proponents tended to use emotion, rather than reason, in presenting their arguments, he said. “Our testimony and the testimony of building officials who understand that there is not enough technical data to support mandates convinced the assembly that it was true,” he said.
NAHB will provide members with a comprehensive report of the final hearings in mid-June.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.