The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
More than 600 proposals affecting residential construction were presented and discussed over eight days during the International Code Council’s Final Action Hearings in Dallas in May.
There could have been more, but the ICC decided to split the hearings into two groups. The May hearings covered the International Residential, Building, Fire, Plumbing, Mechanical, Fuel Gas and Existing Building codes.
Final Action Hearings for the International Energy Conservation Code as well as the IRC’s energy provisions and the International Property Maintenance and Zoning codes will take place in Charlotte, N.C., in October.
NAHB took a position of either support or opposition on 229 of 633 proposals during the May hearings. Of particular significance for home builders in this year’s hearings are code changes on fire protection, accessibility for the disabled and stair geometry.
NAHB actions at the hearing include:
NAHB successfully testified for more tradeoffs that allow greater housing density when fire sprinklers are installed in one- and two-family homes.
In the International Residential Code, officials approved a code change proposal that introduced a new fire separation distance table that allows for a reduction in the distance between one- and two-family dwellings when the structures are equipped with residential sprinklers. The proposal also allows for zero lot line construction when sprinklers are installed.
Another code proposal addressed additional fire protection for exposed floors in a basement or crawlspace. The original proposed code change would have required all floor assemblies within the dwelling to be protected by an underside layer of 5/8-inch gypsum board for all floors — except those over crawlspaces with 3 feet or less void space below subfloor, in structures equipped with fire sprinklers or floor assemblies that can achieve a 30-minute fire-resistant rating.
Recognizing strong support from the fire service and fire officials and the likelihood of its approval, NAHB worked successfully to modify the proposal to reduce its impact on home construction while addressing the floor collapse concerns of fire fighters. The modification preserves the ability to use exposed floor assemblies composed of 2-inch by 10-inch or greater dimensional or composite lumber.
For floor assemblies constructed with I-joists and other engineered wood products, the protection requirement was reduced from 5/8-inch to 1/2-inch gypsum board. Additionally, an exception was included that permits exposed floor framing for small areas that are typically needed for equipment and utility rooms. Crawlspaces not intended for storage or fuel-fired appliances were also exempted.
NAHB also brought common sense to a proposal in the International Fuel Gas Code that would have prevented the use of any unvented heater for be installed in a home. If passed, unvented fireplaces, room heaters and similar products would have been banned outright from residential use.
NAHB successfully opposed a proposal that would have mandated “visitability” requirements for housing. This broad-ranging, three-part proposal would have added new definitions for egress requirements as well as “visitability” requirements for a new Type C unit for all one- and two-family dwellings. NAHB worked to successfully convince ICC members that requiring all homes to comply would not be feasible or practicable and in some cases could cause drainage problems after rain or snowstorms.
The proposal would have required the main entry door of a home to be at grade level, with no step-up, and would have required the interior hallways, living rooms and kitchens to be easily accessible to those in wheelchairs by requiring wide-access aisles.
The proponents of the code change posed it as a social issue, rather than one relating to health or safety. NAHB argued that anyone can add these features to a new or existing home at any time, and that building codes are not the appropriate venue for mandating provisions that promote social change.
In fact, NAHB encourages the inclusion of many of the proposed accessibility features on a voluntary basis, as witnessed by the efforts of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council to promote universal design practices in home construction. However, NAHB is opposed to code-mandated “visitability” requirements and similar attempts to regulate the use of personal property.
A two-part proposal in both the IRC and the International Building Code would have changed the current 7-3/4-inch riser and 10-inch tread stair geometry for residential R-2 and R-3 occupancies, townhouses and one- and two-family dwellings to require a 7-inch riser and a 11-inch tread depth.
The increase in tread depth and reduction riser height would have significantly increased the required footprint for stairs in new homes and made it much more difficult to construct smaller, more affordable homes and townhouses.
Both proposals were soundly defeated and the current permitted stair geometry will remain.
To read additional details about the code proposals, click here.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.