Volume 42, Issue 4 - April 2007

Codes & Regulations
South Carolina Code Council Changes Safety Glazing Requirements 

On February 28, the South Carolina Building Codes Council convened to hear proposed amendments and vote on the final changes to the 2006 International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) currently being adopted. Some of the proposed amendments to the IRC would have allowed some homes to be built below the minimum standards approved by the nationally recognized building codes. 

One proposed glazing-related amendment was a measure to reinstate the design for internal pressures. 

According to Nanette Lockwood, director of legislative affairs for St. Louis-based Solutia Inc., “The older codes, 2000 and 2003 IBC and IRC, allowed for an option for engineers to design a house or building so they did not need things like shutters or impact glass.” 

The internal pressure design option was removed from the 2006 code because it allowed a home or business to be built in a wind-borne debris region without opening protection. That meant that the building might still be standing after a hurricane, but the contents and interior of the structure would be destroyed from the wind and water.

According to a news release from Solutia, the party that introduced the amendment withdrew the proposed design for internal pressures amendment in response to political pressure from insurers, FEMA and other safe homebuilding proponents.

One safety glazing proposal that was accepted by the Council prohibits building officials from requiring safety glazing in bathroom windows that are not located over tubs or in showers. 

“The original language of this code stemmed from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC),” comments Donn Harter, president and director of technical services of the Americas Glass Association. “They dealt with the manufactured enclosure and not glazing in a wall that formed an enclosure. Later, the building code was amended to include glazing in a structural wall that may form part of a bathing enclosure.”

On the subject of showers and tubs, the text in the 2006 code addresses “glazing in any part of a building wall enclosing these compartments where the bottom exposed edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches.”

According to Harter, “The addition of ‘in any part of a building wall’ was added to include any window in a wall within 60 inches of the standing surface of a bathing compartment when that window became part of the enclosure. This was to distinguish other glazing enclosing a bathing compartment that was not a manufactured enclosure, yet subject to impact when slipping or falling.”

According to Lockwood, the code had not previously been clear on where safety glazing in bathrooms was required. Previously, the code could be interpreted to mean that glazing on any wall of the bathroom should be tempered since the walls enclose a tub or shower. With the change, safety glazing is only required in those portions of the wall in direct contact with the fixture. 

“Technically you could call it weakening the code; if you’re not going to require as much safety glazing, you’re weakening the structure,” says Lockwood. 

However, she stresses that it was primarily a measure to get consensus on how this provision is enforced in South Carolina. 

A proposal that eliminated the safety glazing requirement in the same plane as doors was defeated.

“If you open a door and it touches a window, [the window] has to be safety-glazed,” says Lockwood. 

A proposed amendment to eliminate the need for flashing around some windows was also defeated. 

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