Volume 8, Issue 7 - July/August 2007

Code Concerns

Increased Code and Testing Requirements Could Have an Impact
by Mike Fischer

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season is underway, and the forecast from the experts at Colorado State University (CSU) calls for an above-average season with fourteen named storms. Additionally, the CSU forecast, authored by Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, predicts seven hurricanes, three of which are likely to be major storms, and includes a 64-percent chance that at least one of the major hurricanes will make landfall. While this year’s prediction is above average, it does fall well below the 2005 activity that saw Katrina and Wilma strike the Gulf Coast states, wreaking devastation in areas like Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

Impact of Global Warming
The CSU forecast also includes a discussion about global climate change, and seeks to answer the question of whether the 2004 and 2005 seasons, two of the most devastating back-to-back years in history, were the result of global warming. According to Gray, the available data from the last 100 years of Atlantic basin hurricane activity indicates that hurricane activity, captured by recording the number of named storms, hurricanes and intense (category 3-5) hurricanes shows no increase in the average hurricane activity, despite a water temperature increase of 0.4 degrees Celsius. 

Gray also states that even the record year in 2005 might not be a record, since before 1933 the technology to gather information and monitor all of the tropical systems simply did not exist. Gray concludes “we have no plausible physical reasons for believing that Atlantic hurricane frequency or intensity will change significantly if global ocean temperatures continue to rise. For instance, in the quarter-century period from 1945 to 1969 when the globe was undergoing a weak cooling trend, the Atlantic basin experienced 80 major (category 3, 4 or 5) hurricanes and 201 major hurricane days. By contrast, in a similar 25-year period of 1970 to 1994 when the globe was undergoing a general warming trend, there were only 38 major hurricanes (48 percent as many) and 63 major hurricane days (31 percent as many) in the Atlantic basin. Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and hurricane activity do not necessarily follow global mean temperature trends.”

Codes Spread to More States
On another front, the International Code Council Foundation hosted the Silent Defenders Awards Banquet in May in Washington, D.C. This annual event honors individuals or entities that have demonstrated extraordinary focus on improving safety through the application of codes and safety standards in the built environment. This year, two of the four awards went to Louisiana state legislators who spearheaded a fast-tracked adoption of the International Codes, significantly improving new construction standards in Louisiana. 

Sen. Ken Hollis and Rep. Gillis Pinac received the Silent Defender awards and spoke to the dinner attendees about the process involved in changing the way the entire construction industry in the state of Louisiana does business. Rep. Pinac reminded the audience that Louisiana had already begun consideration of adopting a statewide building code in 2005, after witnessing the parade of storms that struck the Florida peninsula. Ironically, the second organizational code adoption meeting in Louisiana had been scheduled the day that Katrina made landfall. Needless to say, the meeting was cancelled, but the project continued after the storm—albeit with a much greater sense of urgency.

New Testing Requirements
For door, window and skylight products, the 2007 hurricane season marks a different milestone. As states and local jurisdictions adopt the 2006 International Codes, two significant changes related to wind resistance requirements are making their way into the regulatory arena. The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) contain requirements for testing and labeling of exterior windows and skylights to 101/IS2/A440. Exterior entry doors are given an exception that allows testing to ASTM E330 as an alternate, thus avoiding testing for water penetration requirements and certification of the entire assembly. This exemption was granted to the door industry to provide time to allow for the implementation of testing and certification programs for exterior side hinged doors. With ICC code proposals due in August for the 2009 International Codes, the exception is certain to be part of the discussion in the coming months as regulators seek to provide complete envelope protection and reduce the likelihood of water intrusion.

Third-Party Oversight
Another change in the 2006 IBC and IRC is the requirement that window systems requiring testing for resistance to windborne debris must now be labeled to demonstrate compliance to impact and cycling tests. The labeling requirement carries with it mandatory participation in a third-party certification program with quality assurance oversight such as the WDMA Hallmark program. In the earlier versions of the codes, openings were required to meet the requirements with the standards, in essence allowing for a manufacturer to self-certify to those performance features. With the new labeling requirement, regulators have placed a greater emphasis on the need for third-party oversight on this critical element of the building envelope. Other products used to provide protection of glazed openings, including shutters, also are required to comply with the testing requirement, but the current code text does not contain the same labeling provision. WDMA will be considering proposals to submit to the ICC for the next code cycle, and that labeling omission is expected to be included in the WDMA agenda. It is important that all products used to maintain the building envelope during hurricane and tropical storm events be subject to the same requirements, if the public expects the same level of protection. 

Mike Fischer of the Kellen Co. is director of codes and regulatory compliance for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. He can be reached at MFischer@wdma.com. Mr. Fischer’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.


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