Have you ever wondered . . . .


Old 10-12-10, 11:24 AM
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Have you ever wondered . . . .

just how much building codes are driven by marketing and industry trade groups instead of being driven by sound engineering and safety?

A couple of weeks ago there was a forum discussion about decks. I did some Googling looking for code requirements and came across a locality that required the use of Simpson post anchors and that got me thinking about who's driving the bus when it comes to code.
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Old 10-12-10, 02:19 PM
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Of course, a prime example is the electrical requirements for AFCI breakers in your home. Starting in 2011 NEC, they say when you replace a receptacle in your house, it needs to be replaced with a AFCI/TR receptacle. AFCI's are a complete waste of money.
Old 10-12-10, 02:44 PM
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Of course it is industry driven. These fire guys don't know squat about electricity. They take last season's code book and add in all the new toys to it. But let someone sneak in and whisper $$$ and you need to push this product because it is safer....well then the ball bounces in a different direction.
Old 10-12-10, 04:17 PM
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To get onto a building code writing committee or sun-committee you usually have to be from some other consensus group and also have friends or some other activity.

Consensus groups, like ASTM, which create the basic standards for products and testing and verification are one example. There is a balance that must be held between producers, users and general interest. Usually the general interest people are educational and "green" people, the products are the people that make the products and the materials that go into them and the users are contractors, architects and engineers that use the product. It is a no-brainer to see why there is a balance required for voting membership since the producers/manufacturers are willing to donate the time and money to see any changes that can take several years and a lot of convincing. Once you are a voting member on the committee you may be allowed to get into further positions to speak your peace. I was a member of and ASTM committee for 10 years before being able to get a seat as a voting member. I was lucky because at that time most memberships were personal, but could only be one voting method from a company and they decided to remove all deceased members (voting absentee every month to keep the position) and open up more spots and I got one because of industry work with others on the committee, including the Secretary that I usually talked to weekly or so on similar matters. - That does not get you on to a code writing committee.

Because of activity in the industry and being a founding member of two other local chapters of other different industry organizations, I had enough friends to to get on the committee that wrote the first national masonry consensus standard. My work with the mason contractors and unions was a waste of time, but I did make many contacts internationally that led me back to the masonry unions in the U.S. Since I had the time, experience and scope, I got to be on the voting committee with about 50 others. After several years we had a national consensus masonry standard. Only one ot two contractors were involved in the complete process.

Just having a national consensus standard is not enough because it is not written in code language for the typical inspector to legally enforce since he is not an expert or an engineer. This is where the old code bodies (the old UBC, Southern Building Code, National Building code, etc.) come into play because they have their own codes that are written to reflect local practices (old and adequate, but definitely not flexible), but they were enforceable. A code is worthless unless it can be enforced.

The people lobbying the code enforcers are long established suppliers and contractors that are new comers with little invested assets or investment in the future, but have good ideas and opinions. The suppliers had been around constantly through the years, supported the groups and are investing big in the future. The suppliers/producers have a very strong influence on the code writers.

When it all shakes out, the producers/suppliers end up with a lot of influence because of documented teting and results and a good line to future products and applications plus recent failures.

The codes are not influenced by a guy that just stands up and says he has a better idea on how to do something, since the people listening have already been asked what there opinions are on a similar situation or product a year or two earlier.

Since the code is just the least that has to be done to make it legal, there are local requirements to the national codes to reflect local problems and situations. Of course a god professional engineer can alway come up with an alternate and accept the liability if he nows it will be done the way he specifies (unless it is life-safety).

Codes are not an emotional or short term toy.


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