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September - October 2002


Crisis Averted
Window Industry Won’t See Harmful Code Changes 
by Rick Perry

Each year, there are many changes to the international building codes pending or in the proposal stage, which could directly or indirectly impact the window, door and skylight industry. As an industry watchdog, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) commits a great deal of time and energy to track and evaluate code-change proposals to the international codes. Through committee meetings of our association members, our formal position is determined. When necessary, WDMA may present testimony at the code hearings on behalf of our association 

Flashing and Sealants
Earlier this year, there were several developments at an International Building Code hearing held in Pittsburgh. One proposed change, item FS 90-02, would have inserted language requiring the use of flashing and sealants in all window installations per manufacturers’ installation instructions. While we recognize the importance of proper installation and sealing for moisture control, this would have transferred the responsibility for the integrity of the installation to the manufacturer. In essence, it would have necessitated the inclusion of every type of surface and substrate, every type of flashing and every type and brand of sealant for every window in the manufacturer’s product catalog and specification. 

In addition, the proposal did not acknowledge that in some instances sealants may not be called for. In certain applications, the use of both sealants and flashing can actually be counter-productive to moisture control. By monitoring the situation closely, and with some intense lobbying, WDMA was able to have the proposal withdrawn before it reached the public hearing stage of the code meeting. 

Sill Heights
Another proposed change addressed at the same session, item FS 91-01, would have established a minimum window-sill height of 36 inches in an effort to eliminate accidental child falls. The window and door industry is very sensitive to this issue and has worked diligently with the National Safety Council and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop a public education/awareness program to inform parents and caregivers about this issue and instruct them on ways to prevent child falls. The author of this proposal did not produce any data substantiating that existing sill heights actually contribute to falls, or that increasing the height would reduce the number of falls. 
This code proposal would have had a disastrous impact on the use of windows as escape/egress routes in emergency evacuation. To achieve the minimum emergency egress requirement, the 36-inch sill height would eliminate almost all double-hung windows from any application with 8-feet ceiling heights. In addition, this minimum sill height would put the locking devices of all double-hung and most casement windows above the maximum allowable height under the Americans with Disabilities Act for individuals confined to wheelchairs. 

Bolstered by support from the National Association of Home Builders and several code officials, WDMA and the industry was successful in its efforts to defeat this initial proposal. Based upon the testimony of the officials and final actions, this proposal is certain to appear again. The fenestration industry is already preparing data and background material for future proposals on the minimum-sill-height issue. 

Look to future columns for additional updates on code issues. 

Rick Perry serves as director of industry standards for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, based in Des Plaines, Ill.

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