The Quicker & More Valuable Road to Code Compliance

Originally published by: SBCRIApril 12, 2012

The following article was produced and published by the source linked to above, who is solely responsible for its content. SBC Magazine is publishing this story to raise awareness of information publicly available online and does not verify the accuracy of the author’s claims. As a consequence, SBC cannot vouch for the validity of any facts, claims or opinions made in the article.

roof test

Any innovation in building construction, whether it’s a new product, material or method, needs to first establish it is compliant with the building code before it can be implemented or used in the field. Traditionally, obtaining code compliance for a product can be a complicated, messy and drawn-out process. Not for the faint of heart, it can turn into a saga spanning well over a year, requiring significant resources. In turn, it creates a significant barrier to bringing a revolutionary product or process to market.

Fortunately, the Structural Building Components Research Institute (SBCRI), partnering with Qualtim, offers a new, streamlined approach to code compliance. It’s a road less traveled that can be much quicker and more robust than the traditional path, because it is merely focused on complying with the law. SBCRI’s efficient approach for testing and analysis of a product is summarized in its Technical Evaluation Report (TER), which is intended to assist those who enforce the codes and make the final determination of a product’s compliance with the code. 

When a company looks for product development testing, engineering analysis, design value development and code compliance assistance, it wants to:

  1. Get the product to market quickly
  2. Work with professionals who have expertise in the industry
  3. Navigate the code compliance process as efficiently as possible
  4. Obtain a sealed report documenting the product’s code compliance

All of this is possible through SBCRI’s Technical Evaluation Report (TER) process.

ANSI/ACLASS certified as an ILAC-MLA accredited testing agency, SBCRI meets the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 for all its testing techniques used to determine a structural product’s real-life design limit states. SBCRI tests products as they would actually be installed in a structure to resist the same loading conditions encountered in the field. This “in-situ” testing, combined with its technical and engineering staff’s structural building component expertise, provides the foundation of SBCRI’s TERs.

How Does It Work?

First, SBCRI meets with a client and evaluates their proposed building product, material or method. SBCRI’s registered professional engineering staff helps identify the sections of the building code that apply to the client’s concept and define the need for a code-compliance evaluation. SBCRI then develops a series of test protocols to conduct structural testing and establish that the client’s concept is a code-compliant alternative.

All TERs focus on our area of expertise: the structural building component industry. Technical staff compiles and analyzes the resulting test data and generates a TER. The engineer’s seal on our TER means that we truly believe in the testing we have performed or evaluated and we stand behind our code compliance evaluation. Therefore, the TER process provides a code-compliance evaluation that references sufficient test data and associated engineering analysis to assure building code equivalency for an alternative material, product or assembly. As the ICC Evaluation Service states in its  “1.0 PURPOSE” statement “ICC-ES evaluation reports assist those enforcing model codes in determining whether a given subject complies with those codes…Approval for use is the prerogative and responsibility of the Code Official; ICC-ES does not intend to assume, nor can ICC-ES assume, that prerogative and responsibility.”  TERs and other Approved Sources perform the identical function. 

Are TER’s Law Abiding Citizens?

The simple answer is yes! Adopted into local or state law, the building code has the following key provisions that make creative and innovative testing and engineering work possible.

The IBC and established law (as adopted) provides these definitions:

  • APPROVED AGENCY – “An established and recognized agency regularly engaged in conducting tests or furnishing inspection services, when such agency has been approved.”
  • APPROVED SOURCE – “An independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.”
  • APPROVED – “Acceptable to the code official or authority having jurisdiction.”
  • 104.11 Alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment. The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.
  • 104.11.1 Research reports. Supporting data, where necessary to assist in the approval of materials or assemblies not specifically provided for in this code, shall consist of valid research reports from approved sources.
  • 104.11.2 Tests. Whenever there is insufficient evidence of compliance with the provisions of this code, or evidence that a material or method does not conform to the requirements of this code, or in order to substantiate claims for alternative materials or methods, the building official shall have the authority to require tests as evidence of compliance to be made at no expense to the jurisdiction. Test methods shall be as specified in this code or by other recognized test standards. In the absence of recognized and accepted test methods, the building official shall approve the testing procedures. Tests shall be performed by an approved agency. Reports of such tests shall be retained by the building official for the period required for retention of public records

TER samples with sealSBCRI meets the code definition of an Approved Agency and SBCRI/Qualtim meets the definition of an Approved Source. With a testing and engineering focus specifically on the structural building components industry, SBCRI and Qualtim can provide transparent design values that are either defined or implied by the building code (IRC, IBC, IECC, IgCC, referenced consensus standards, etc.). SBCRI calls the latter comparative equivalency design values.

Firmly based on generally accepted engineering methods and code compliance requirements, the TER defines a product’s performance benchmark and the rationale used to determine comparative performance. The TER is also affixed with a professional engineer’s seal. Once a product’s design limits are known, it can be compared to other products on a level playing field basis, which promotes creative engineering and innovation in the building construction industry.

The Bottom Line

If you have an idea for a new product, consider SBCRI’s streamlined TER approach. Our goal is simple: Define the code compliant benchmark which defines the level playing field, test your product against that benchmark, and compete on a fair and understandable basis.  It may make the difference between a product successfully brought to market generating sales immediately, and one whose sales never take off in the way that the owner expected. 

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