Driving the building industry forward are new and innovative building products that advance safety, energy efficiency, cost-savings for builders and owners and more. To be used in construction, these products must meet the current codes, and when the codes do not yet address a new product, they must be evaluated against a protocol. As part of the evaluation of innovative building products for code compliance, experts, such as the technical staff at ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), research and then create criteria applicable to them. Thereafter they evaluate the product against the written criteria and publish an evaluation report. Such evaluation reports are helpful resources for design professionals and building officials faced with review and approval of alternative products and systems that may not be adequately addressed in the codes.
ICC Evaluation Services
It all starts with the I-codes. Section 104.11 of the IBC provides a pathway for “Alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment”, and that’s where ICC-ES steps in. Product manufacturers apply to ICC-ES for evaluation of their innovative and proprietary products. Ultimately, the evaluation report defines how “…the material or method, for the purpose intended, is not less than the equivalent of that prescribed in the code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety”. In most cases, the ICC-ES staff develops Acceptance Criteria for evaluation of the product. Acceptance Criteria include testing and evaluation requirements, but also code references for use, installation and special inspection on the project site, amongst other technical information. Acceptance Criteria development is one of the first major steps in the ICC-ES process once an application is submitted.
Acceptance Criteria provide guidelines for demonstrating compliance with the performance features of the I-codes. The criteria are developed through a transparent process involving public hearings of the ICC-ES Evaluation Committee, and on-line postings where public comments are received. Recently, Acceptance Criteria were approved by the ICC-ES Evaluation Committee for some very interesting and cutting-edge building products including magnetic fasteners, structural building materials from shipping containers, seismic design of precast concrete diaphragm systems and load-bearing thermal break assemblies installed between concrete balconies and concrete floors. With each of these Acceptance Criteria, ICC-ES staff worked directly with manufacturers, researchers, design professionals and industry technical associations to develop and write requirements for product evaluation to ensure compliance with the I-codes. These and many other building products now have a clear and well-defined pathway for evaluation to the I-code requirements.
The first loop of the ICC-ES process cycle concludes with the issuance and publication of evaluation reports that directly address the issue of code compliance. Such products remain under ICC-ES’ periodic evaluation to assure continuous compliance. ICC-ES evaluation reports are public documents, available for building regulators, manufacturers, design professionals and builders free of charge on the ICC-ES website (http://www.icc-es.org/Evaluation_Reports/read.shtml). All of these entities look to ICC-ES evaluation reports for evidence that building products and systems are code-compliant.