Myth Buster: ICC Provides Clarity on New Product Code Compliance Approval Process
Originally published by: International Code Council — June 19, 2014
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Editor’s Note: Within the following article posted by the ICC (click on the source link above to view the original online article), the original IBC language and direct references have been inserted in blue to provide clarity and complete information.
IBC Sections 104 and 1703 and the Authority of the Code Official
The rules regarding the duties and powers of the code official [building official in the International Building Code (IBC)] have been in place for several decades and are well understood by those who administer the codes. Code officials have the responsibility of protecting public safety in their communities. They alone have the authority to apply and interpret the code in their jurisdictions and determine whether to accept products, fixtures, construction materials, components and entities or agencies that evaluate products. Any attempt to imply or claim that "approval" is universal and that it can be automatically bestowed upon a specific agency without the approval of the local authorities is misleading and would appear as an attempt to undermine the authority of the code officials.
Section 104 of the IBC, and more specifically Section 104.9, addresses approved materials and equipment: "Materials, equipment and devices approved by the building official shall be constructed and installed in accordance with such approval." The approval authority of the building official is a significant responsibility and is a key to code compliance.
Editor’s Note: Following is the complete code language: 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. Where the alternative material, design or method of construction is not approved, the building official shall respond in writing, stating the reasons the alternative was not approved.
Section 104.11.1 , Research reports, reads: "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."
Editor’s Note: Following is the complete code language: 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. Per professional engineering law this is the definition of a professional engineer.
Section 104.11.2, Tests in part reads: "Tests shall be performed by an approved agency." Tests submitted must therefore be performed by an agency approved by the building official based on evidence that the agency has the technical expertise, test equipment and the quality assurance procedures to properly conduct and report the necessary technical information.
Editor’s Note: Following is the complete code language: 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.
Section 1703.1 Approved agency reads: "An approved agency shall provide all information as necessary for the building official to determine that the agency meets the applicable requirements." This section makes clear that the agency must submit the necessary information to each local building official so said official can determine whether the agency possesses the knowledge and expertise necessary to be approved for the specific subject matter, building element, or construction material under consideration.
Editor’s Note: Following is the complete code language: 1703.4 Performance. 
Specific information consisting of test reports conducted by an approved testing agency in accordance with the appropriate referenced standards, or other such information as necessary, shall be provided for the building official to determine that the material meets the applicable code requirements.
1703.4.1 Research and investigation. 
Sufficient technical data shall be submitted to the building official to substantiate the proposed use of any material or assembly. If it is determined that the evidence submitted is satisfactory proof of performance for the use intended, the building official shall approve the use of the material or assembly subject to the requirements of this code. The costs, reports and investigations required under these provisions shall be paid by the applicant.
1703.4.2 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.
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.
Code sections quoted above contain italicized terms, indicating the term is defined in the code, and the definition must be used in the application of the code. Below are definitions of "Approved," "Approved Agency" and "building official":
- Approved: Acceptable to the building official or authority having jurisdiction.
- Approved Agency: An established and recognized agency regularly engaged in conducting tests or furnishing inspection services, when such agency has been approved.
- Building official: The officer or other designated authority charged with the administration and enforcement of this code, or a duly authorized representative.
This discussion shows the clear relationship between various sections of the code that deal with the powers and authority of the code official. No agency or entity can claim universal "approval," because approval is only vested in the local code administering authorities. While this article is focused on the IBC and its applicable sections, the same or similar provisions are present in other International Codes.
 The last sentence is adopted language in the 2015 codes.