GRASSROOTS BUILDERS HAVE SPOKEN, AND THE International Code Council (ICC) listened. Thanks to a major lobbying campaign that involved thousands of our members contacting their local code officials in response to a call to action by the NAHB (see “Help Roll This Code Back,” July, page 95), the ICC recently overturned additional insulation code requirements that would have changed how many homes are built and added significantly to the cost of a new home.
The final action hearings for the 2006 building codes were held in September and included a lengthy, heated debate in which builders, NAHB staff, and industry allies made one good point after another regarding the adequacy of the existing insulation requirements and the potential negative impacts of a proposal to increase the requirements that the ICC had previously approved. Fortunately, the ICC saw the wisdom of our position; the result was a 271–68 vote in favor of our rollback proposal, well above the two-thirds majority that was required.
This is a fantastic win for NAHB members, as well as a boon to home buyers, because the defeated insulation requirements would have added an estimated $1,000 to $4,000 to the cost of a new home.
But it's not the only win we scored. Thanks to the meticulous strategizing, lobbying, and testifying of the NAHB Construction Codes and Standards Committee and its staff, affordability and practicality were front and center in code officials' minds when it came time for the final vote.
Significant wins for housing affordability include the defeat of amendments that would have required:
- Increased wind-resistant design for conventional construction loads due to topographical features;
- Brick or other noncombustible exterior coverings on all homes within 5 feet of a property line;
- Increases in insulation R-values for ceilings without attic spaces;
- Roll-in showers in multifamily dwelling units;
- Continuous, sealed air barriers in multifamily construction;
- Wider footings in houses with crawl spaces; and
Drainage practices for flashing installation that contradict accepted techniques and construction methods.ONGOING BATTLESThese wins should help save thousands of dollars in the construction process. Yet there were a few unfavorable amendments that we were unable to defeat.
One is a requirement that windowsills be a minimum of 24 inches above the finished floor if the sill is 72 inches or more above the exterior grade or surface and no window guard is provided to protect against child falls. The ICC also included a residential sprinkler appendix in the International Residential Code (IRC), which is a part of the ICC.
Despite our arguments that there is no justification for the minimum sill height and that current sprinkler technology is not cost-effective in one- and two-family construction, code officials voted in favor of these proposals. Fortunately, we were able to convince the ICC not to make sprinklers mandatory. However, including the sprinkler appendix in the IRC makes it easier for jurisdictions to adopt mandatory sprinkler requirements by simply adopting the appendix.
The NAHB will help builder associations oppose such action, but this is another instance where grass-roots efforts can make a difference. I urge members to closely monitor decisions by local code authorities. If they attempt to impose a mandatory sprinkler rule, take swift and decisive action to oppose it. As NAHB members have proved time and again, when grassroots groups speak, authorities really do listen.
President, NAHB Washington, D.C.