There is nothing sexy about building codes. But codes are critical to the safety of structures and those who occupy them. So when the International Code Council announced the availability of its new performance code for buildings earlier this month, it was news of critical importance to the industry (ENR 1/21 p. 13). No less important will be the voting by the National Fire Protection Association, with its different but well-respected "consensus" process that encourages greater input from building product manufacturers, on a competing version in May. Unfortunately, frustrated bystanders such as the Building Owners and Managers Association International regard the rift between icc and NFPA as unacceptable and unnecessary.
What the new performance codes do not provide is the uniformity that we hoped for when the nation's three regional code-making organizations, ICBO, BOCA and Southern, formed the International Code Council in 1994 to develop a single set of nationwide codes. In 1998, the National Fire Protection Association withdrew its support. ICC went ahead anyway and released its prescriptive International Building Code in 2000. But now some cities, such as Phoenix, intend to adopt NFPA's instead of ICC's.
The events of Sept. 11 remind us how important facilities are to America's economic, social and psychological make-up. As we rebuild our confidence and think more carefully about how we want our facilities to perform in crises, this industry ought to come to a nationwide agreement on the building codes we intend to follow.
Code Consensus Needed 1/28/2002
January 28, 2002