Hard Facts about Codes

In the beginning, there were a few different code groups, and what code you followed depended on where the project was located. Three groups, BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI, administered codes in different geographic regions around the country. Over time, these code groups, and the codes they produced, merged into one organization—the International Code Council—that administers the International Building Code (IBC).

Such consolidation was welcome but short-lived as energy, hurricane, green and other codes were created. Glazing contractors went from being compliant with one code to complying with many.

The “how” and “why” of codes change underwent an evolution as well. Long gone are the days in which a particular product manufacturer works toward have a code written so that its product would gain advantage in code language. Think shutters versus window film in the hurricane codes. Today, codes are rarely written so that only one product or one type of product can meet them. Rather than prescriptive, they are performance-based codes. If your product can achieve the desired results, it can be used.

Of course, every single code change has implications for someone. The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International quantifies those implications. In an article in this association’s Building publication this month, BOMA director of codes and standards Steve Orlowski breaks down exactly what each code change will add (or subtract) from every commercial building built under it.

Orlowski provided a cost-benefit analysis for every major code change that affects BOMA members. For example, the recent change in the 2015 I-Codes that allow the removal of a fire-rated door and rated wall assembly in the area between exit passageway and the interior exit stairwell will save owners as much as $2,574 for each fire door that is no longer necessary. (This change is only valid in areas where there are no unprotected openings in the exit passageway.)

I mention what BOMA is doing for two reasons. First, because the glass industry should do a similar analysis for code changes that affect it. It doesn’t have to be done in dollars; amount of glass will work as well. But we should be able to aggregate what code changes will mean.

The most trying times for the glass industry in any code cycle are the times when the industry has not worked together. For example, when temperers support a code change that laminators don’t. This is where a cost study could be extremely helpful as well, showing each group what a particular code change will mean to it.

When the entire industry works together, it has and will continue to achieve great things. The codes are based on empirical facts that support a presence. Everyone wants safe buildings, green buildings, hurricane-resistant buildings. But we should all know their cost.

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