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Building Codes – We can make a difference.

The CFA has been involved in the development of building codes for nearly ten years, beginning with its effort to add input to the ACI Residential Code. The CFA has also been a participant in the ACCS, the Alliance for Concrete Codes and Standards, a group of allied associations that meets biannually to review and propose code modifications to the IRC and IBC.

Code development and modification is a long and often frustrating process. It is never as simple and straightforward as it might seem. While the final decisions for the IRC are made by building officials, there are many competing special interest groups that want to influence the codes in their favor. These interests include masonry, lumber, and manufacturing – all groups with significantly more funding and personnel than the concrete industry – but we can make a difference. These groups are active at the local level in addition to the national level.

A case-in-point is a recent code change in Ohio. Special interests had enacted a code change which prohibited the use of cast-in-place foundations – yes, prohibited their use!! The change went far beyond slanting the code in favor of another building type – in this instance, concrete masonry. The CFA and Ohio Ready-Mixed Concrete Association joined forces to have this provision overturned.

A second initiative, still pending, is the effort of NRMCA and CFA to have separate tables in the IRC for concrete masonry and poured walls. The current (2003) edition of the IRC treats CMU and CIP concrete the same if reinforcement is used when in fact, for the same wall thickness and reinforcement, CIP concrete has more strength. The outcome of this battle is uncertain. A change is submitted to the IRC in writing and after review by the code development committee, it recommends acceptance or rejection. The proponents and opponents have approximately two minutes to state their case at the final action hearings, after which a vote of building officials is taken. We’ll let you know the outcome. This is the first (but not the last) time that the CFA has proposed code modifications.

The final effort is the most comprehensive step in which the CFA participated. The ACI 332 Residential Standard has been nearly ten years in the making. It has just completed the public review period and the 332 Committee hopes to resolve the final differences at the October meeting in San Francisco. Once approved by ACI, the final step will be to ask the IRC to include the 332 Standard either by incorporation or by reference. That process is also lengthy as code modifications are only considered twice within each three-year period.

While the process of providing input to code development is frustrating, lengthy, and often unsuccessful, it is still an effort worth making. Codes are a necessary and positive influence on construction but only by continual vigilance can we ensure that they are fair to all concerns.

Ed Sauter, Executive Director, CFA

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us