Efforts to Move the Code Backward Don't Help CMs
by TJ Jerke, Sean Shields and Kirk Grundahl
Believe it or not, officials in Louisiana and Florida, states that can have high wind loading and flooding causing buoyancy, are trying to scale back their states’ building codes in an effort to decrease the regulatory burden and help drive down home costs, while NAHB members maintain increasing home sales prices.
But their efforts in the past few years are leaving some to wonder why lawmakers and home builders would desire to weaken building codes, which are designed to protect home owners and reduce damage, thereby reducing the cost of repair when significant events occur in coastal areas.
A key cost effective tool to ensure that all load paths are dealt with professionally and per building code requirements is to include floor trusses, wall panels and roof trusses. Accurate building understanding and sound code compliance give component manufacturers (CMs) a leg up as they provide these products to the market. Anytime a state, or local jurisdiction, begins backing away from these requirements, the risk to the market increases because it is harder to comply with high loads using “stick-framing” techniques.
It is also hard to understand why Florida would back away from existing codes given that trusses command close to 100 percent market share and code compliance is met with sound engineered load paths. Efficient structurally sound construction is the norm.
If this is a trend, regression isn’t good for load path performance in buildings. Component manufacturers have always desired to provide cost effective load path resistance solutions using the software, engineering and manufacturing techniques at their ready disposal.
Undermining the building code to save real and perceived costs by NAHB members is nothing new. Everyone should remember the NAHB push to provide 2x10s in the market, a push that abandoned testing that showed how 2x10s were not materially safer than trusses. The R501.3/R302.13 code provision, worked out by the NAHB and American Wood Council (AWC), required gypsum on unprotected floor assemblies for all engineered products reducing their ability to be cost effective engineered solutions in favor of a generally non-engineered high risk stick framing solution.
This political maneuver not only delayed a push by the fire service for mandatory sprinklers, but also carved out an exception for 2x10 solid-sawn joists, which places engineered solutions, like trusses, at a higher cost and competitive disadvantage. In their push for less expensive construction, the homebuilders were content throwing CMs under the bus who were providing trusses in floors over basements
It is only a matter of time where actions like the ones taken by AWC and NAHB will cause a loss of one or more lives, which will be a very sad day, as data and data-driven understanding of the issues continues to guide the industry in a more engineered and safer direction.
That’s why developing strong relationships with local building officials is a very important activity for all CMs to engage in, whether it’s in Florida and Louisiana or Minnesota. If you’d like to learn more about how to get more actively involved in your local or state code adoption process, contact us, we want to help.
The following SBCA topical library pages provide links to additional building code issues where the best interests of component manufacturers do not align with the current lobbying efforts of homebuilders.