WDMA Update

A New Day Dawning
Code Development Process May Make Major Change
by Jeff Inks

The International Code Council (ICC) is poised to make what is probably the most significant change to its code development process in its history, or the history of its legacy organizations for that matter. In a move that will transform the way final decisions are made on proposed new code requirements and amendments to existing ones, the ICC intends to greatly increase the number of code officials who actually vote on the proposals and how, beginning with the 2015 code development cycle. At least thatís the current proposal and it could substantially change just what gets approved for building codes and what doesnít.

Existing Rules
For those not as familiar with the ICC code development process, under its existing rules and procedures, final decisions on whether to approve or disapprove any given proposal are made at ICCís final action hearings (FAH) by building code officials who are members of ICC and eligible to vote on them. They must also be in attendance at the FAH and be present at the time a vote is taken. Presence at the hearings is considered extremely important because proponents and opponents of any given proposal have the opportunity to testify in support of their position in-person in front of the code officials voting on the proposal with which they are concerned. Hearing testimony can therefore greatly influence the final vote and as the name of the hearings imply, the vote is final.

New Proposal
Under the new procedures that ICC may approve in the near future, perhaps as early as at its board meeting in December, the FAH will be redefined as the public comment hearing (PCH) and attendance at it will no longer be required in order for code officials to vote on the final disposition of any given proposal. Instead all ICC member code officials eligible to vote will be allowed to do so through an online ballot.

To put this in a little better perspective, the number of code officials who now make the final decision on whether to approve or disapprove any given proposal at the FAH ranges from 125 to 400, on average, according to ICC. Those vote counts are but a small fraction of the approximately 15,000 ICC code official members who are actually eligible to vote and could potentially do so under the new voting process. The low number of officials voting under the current existing process is primarily because in-person participation at the FAH is required and budgets or other constraints keep many voting eligible code officials from attending. That low representative vote count is what ICC is trying to change with the proposed new process and could change it dramatically. While vote counts approaching the upper thousands are probably not likely, they could still easily go from several hundred on average to several thousand.

Positive Change?
So is that a good thing or a bad idea? Many stakeholders havenít decided yet. A big unknown is just how informed a remote participation ballot vote will be versus an in-person vote at the FAH as currently required. While ICC does webcast the entire proceedings live and all records related to any proposal, including webcast recordings, will also be available via ICCís website for the post hearing ballot vote, thereís no way to know whether a code official voting on a specific proposal via the online ballot actually heard or considered testimony that was provided on it at the live PCH.

At this point, we sit tight awaiting ICCís decision. For more on this story see the January-February issue of DWM y Jeff Inks is vice president of codes and regulatory affairs for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Inks is vice president of codes and regulatory affairs for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.

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