AWC Advocates SP Design Value Changes in 2015 Code
Originally published by: Softwood Lumber Board — December 25, 2012
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In late October, the International Code Council (ICC) concluded its hearings in Portland, Oregon, taking final action on two 2015 ICC standards -- the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Existing Building Code. Active as ever at the hearings was the American Wood Council (AWC), with AWC Vice President Codes & Regulations Kenneth Bland and his staff playing key roles. We interviewed Bland and AWC President and CEO Robert Glowinski a few weeks after the hearings concluded when they had taken a breath and could talk about the intense nature of their industry’s week in Oregon.
One of the more significant changes proposed by AWC and approved this year was formal recognition of cross-laminated timber (CLT) as Type IV construction. This classification will allow 50 percent taller and larger CLT buildings than previously permitted as Type V (wood frame) construction. AWC staff was able to provide research results that resolved considerable concern at the hearing, along with the original committee recommendation to deny recognition. This change opens new markets for CLT in non-residential structures.
According to Bland, “Indeed, one of the important pieces associated with cross-laminated timber was recognition of the manufacturing standard developed for the product and demonstrating its fire endurance in qualifying tests. There are now provisions in the standard that address how the product is to be manufactured, the quality control associated with that manufacturing, and recognition of its proven fire endurance qualities.”
Type IV construction has traditionally been heavy timber construction, meaning large columns, large section-wood beams, thick solid-wood floors, and so forth. Type IV were originally the traditional heavy mill buildings common in New England, but are still popular today for aesthetic and functional reasons. Bland noted, “Our research allowed us to propose change such that buildings with cross-laminated timber can now be categorized as ‘heavy timber’ or Type IV construction, permitting an additional one or two stories and allowing for a doubling of the floor area from what was permitted for just wood-frame construction.”
“For the most part,” said Glowinski, “the model standards developed by the International Code Council become law in the United States. The ICC is a model standards development organization, and they essentially develop standards for use in the United States. Those standards, in turn, are adopted by various jurisdictions and have upon that adoption the force of law.”
Bland was all too happy to walk readers through the intensity of that week. “You have a standards hearing that is going to go on for multiple days for at least 12 hours each day,” he stated. “There were over 1,100 standards changes that were considered that week. Everyone who is in the room and wants to speak about a change is given the opportunity to do so. So, you have all sorts of competing interests in that room, and they’re testifying for and against each standards change that comes up. This happens every day, all day, for six days -- one change after the other.”
He continued, “The real effort that takes place often occurs before the meeting. It’s not just the testimony at the hearing. It’s the background effort, the research we’re doing for the standards change in advance, and the people we are working with who we know are involved in the consensus process.
Bland received his Master’s degree in Fire Protection Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He has been with the association for 24 years after previously serving as a building code official. For his part, Glowinski has been with the AWC for 34 years, since 1978, and has held different positions within the association.
As such, both executives have seen their fair share of battles with rival factions of the building industry.
Bland added, “The challenge also is that the definitions of construction types have probably 120 years of institutional existence and code officials are very reluctant to change these definitions. So we need to provide very compelling evidence.” The Portland hearings also reached an agreement to retroactively adopt into the 2015 IBC whatever changes are approved next year for the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) for southern pine design values. This unique standards change will ensure the 2015 IBC and IRC contain identical spans for wood joists, rafters, and headers and allow retroactive modification to the 2015 IBC even though the deadline for changes had long passed. This approval will minimize the need for local, regional, or state amendments to the IBC. In addition, there was the rejection of masonry and steel industry proposals aimed directly at limiting multi-family residential wood buildings to two stories or 20 feet.
“There were 1,100 changes originally considered for the 2015 standard,” Glowinski pointed out. “Around 300 of these changes were heard in the final hearings, sometimes with multiple resolutions proposed. Of those, we provided our technical perspective on about 125. Of the 125, 24 of them were proposals submitted by AWC. Of the 24 that we submitted, we were successful on all 24 and that was the first time we hit 100 percent. And then we were about 92 percent successful on the rest – not the changes we proposed, but on others that we divide into ‘threats’ and ‘opportunities’ to the use of wood.”
Glowinski gave all of the credit for the AWC’s success to Bland, his staff, and the engineering support they receive from the headquarters staff. “They are very good at what they do,” he said. “Also, the industry recognizes how important this is to their basic market entry, and provides us with the resources we need to be successful.”
Bland concurred. “We are fortunate,” he concluded, “to have good support from the industry. That support allows us to do the work that is necessary ahead of time, getting out, visiting with the members of the ICC, going to their association meetings, talking about our research and the technical validity of the proposals, and having adequate staff at the hearings. No material gets used in construction in the United States unless a building code permits it to be used, and so this whole process is not only important to maintaining and growing markets, but for the health and safety of everyone in America.”