Code Hearings Show Promising Signs for Alignment

May 16th, 2019 by Drew Vass

Jen Hatfield, managing member of J. Hatfield and Associates and code consultant for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), testifies on behalf of AAMA. (Photo Credit: AAMA)

The International Code Council (ICC) Committee Action Hearings took place last week in Albuquerque, N.M., ending on what officials for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) describe as a “year of alignment.” The event drew a number of collaborations over fenestration-related proposals, including between representatives for WDMA and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). WDMA and AAMA officials worked in tandem over numerous door- and window-related, Group B proposals, reporting back to DWM over the course of the 11-day process.

“In all, we took a position supporting or opposing about 70 to 80 proposals,” says Jeff Inks, WDMA’s senior vice president, advocacy.

Among the biggest takeaways now headed for public comment are a series of around 10 proposals related to emergency escape and window opening control mechanisms, Inks says, designed to unify requirements across various code systems. Meanwhile, jointly drafted proposals centering on energy-related requirements aims to—for the first time ever—bring consistency to International Residential Code (IRC), International Building Code (IBC), International Existing Building Code (IEBC) and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requirements.

“As an industry, we showed a very strong, unified front, which is one of the reasons we were so successful,” Inks declares. “That was noticeable.”

A Year of Collaboration

The Glazing Industry Code Committee (GICC), Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC), WDMA and AAMA, came together over what association officials see as inconsistencies among thermal requirements found in American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) standards and the IECC. Supported and approved amid the hearings, proposal CE-84-19 urges code officials to make 2021 IECC requirements consistent with those approved for the 2019 edition of ASHRAE’s 90.1 standard (which serves as an alternative path to meeting IECC technical requirements).

“The fenestration requirements among the two have always been different,” Inks explains. “Now, for the very first time, they will be wholly the same. That’s important for industry, so you don’t have two different requirements for the same climate zone.”

Kathy Krafka Harkema, codes and regulatory affairs manager for AAMA, suggests that the hearings mark a prime opportunity for reaching out to opponents. One group the industry has worked to win over in recent years includes homebuilders, who have so far put up resistance for suggested changes to requirements for flashing and window installation—which they perceived to be carried by ulterior motives, Inks says. Currently, chapter six of the IRC covers wall construction, he explains, but for fenestration requires flashing to be installed in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Meanwhile, “Not only do flashing requirements not belong in chapter six, but chapter seven, Wall Covering, allows for methods other than the manufacturers installation instructions to provide builders with flexibility for when a manufacturer’s flashing instructions don’t cover a particular installation, or when the builder or design professional prefers a different method.”

A joint proposal from WDMA and AAMA to remove conflicts between chapter six and chapter seven requirements was supported and approved as modified (CE-84-19).

Keeping the High Mark

In other energy-related issues, WDMA and AAMA fought to oppose changes that would cause thermal performance requirements to exceed Energy Star requirements—a move officials saw as counterintuitive to the program.

“Fundamentally … the intent of Energy Star is to recommend guidelines above code levels in terms of energy efficiency,” Krafka Harkema says. Ultimately the committee agreed with that point of view, disapproving RE24-19 on a vote of eight to three.

All hearing-related actions remain preliminary, before advancing to a phase for public comment. The outcomes of last week’s hearings are set to be published June 11, after which comments will be accepted through July 24, 2019. A final phase of hearings is scheduled for October 23-30, 2019, after which voting code officials will make their final determinations.

“We just need to hold our ground at the public comment hearings,” Inks says.

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