Code Update: Revisions Finalized for the 2018 IRC

This blog post continues our series on the final results of the 2016 ICC Group B Code Change Hearings. This post will focus on approved changes to the International Residential Code (IRC) that are of a structural nature. The changes outlined here will be contained in the 2018 IRC, which is expected to be published in the fall of this year.

In Chapter 3, the seismic design category / short-period design spectral response acceleration maps will be updated to match the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Maps. These new maps are based on the worst case assumption for Site Class. Significantly, a new set of maps will be provided in Figure 301.2(3) “Alternate Seismic Design Categories”. These are permitted to be used when the “soil conditions are determined by the building official to be Site Class A, B or D.” See page 29 of the linked document for the new maps and a good explanation of the changes that will be occurring in various parts of the country. In addition, the ICC Building Code Action Committee authored a reorganization of the seismic provisions of Chapter 3 to try to reduce confusion.

Another change in Chapter 3 will clarify that guards are only required on those portions of walking surfaces that are located more than 30 inches above grade, not along the entire surface. To bring consistency with the IBC, another change will require that staples in treated wood be made of stainless steel.

A broad group of parties interested in deck safety, known as the Deck Code Coalition, submitted 17 different code changes with revisions to Section R507 on decks. Of those, 12 were approved, making significant changes to that section. The various approved changes included the following: a complete re-write of that section; new/clarified requirements for deck materials, including wood, fasteners and connectors; clarified requirements for vertical and lateral connections of the deck to the supporting structure; new requirements for sizes of deck footings and specification that deck footings must extend below the frost line, with certain exceptions; clarification for deck board material, including an allowance for alternative decking materials and fastening methods; adding new columns to the deck joist span table that show the maximum cantilever for joists; adding the allowance for 8×8 deck posts, to allow notching for the support of a three-ply beam; and clarification of the deck-post-to-footing connection.

In Chapter 6, a new table permitting 11ʹ- and 12ʹ- long studs was added. In the 2015 IRC, load-bearing studs were limited to 10 feet in length. A new high-capacity nail, the RSRS (Roof Sheathing Ring Shank) nail was added as an option for fastening roof sheathing. This nail will become more widely used once the higher roof component and cladding forces from ASCE 7-16 are adopted. The rim board header detail that was added for the 2015 IRC was corrected to show that hangers are required in all cases when the joists occur over the wall opening.

There were several changes made to the Wall Bracing Section, R602.10. The use of the 2.0 increase factor was clarified for use when the horizontal joints in braced wall panel sheathing are not blocked. Narrow methods were added to the column headings for the wind and seismic bracing amount tables, to make them consistent, and the methods for adding different bracing were clarified. When using bracing method PFH, the builder can omit the nailing of the sheathing to the framing behind the strap-type holdown. Finally, offering some relief for high-seismic areas where brick veneer is used, an allowance was added to permit a limited amount of brick veneer to be present on the second floor without triggering the use of the BV-WSP bracing method.

In Chapter 8, the requirements for a “stick-framed” roof system were completely re-written to make such systems easier to use.

A couple of significant changes were made to the prescriptive requirements for cold-formed steel framing. The requirements for the anchorage of cold-formed steel walls were revised, and the wind requirements for cold-formed steel framing were changed to match the new AISI S230 prescriptive standard.

Finally, it may be helpful to mention some of the proposed changes that were not adopted. While the new ASCE 7-16 was adopted as the IRC reference standard for loads as part of the Administrative changes, several changes to the IRC to make it consistent with ASCE 7-16 were not approved. A change to update the IRC wind speed maps, roof component and cladding pressures, component and cladding roof zones, and revise the remainder of wind-based requirements to match ASCE 7-16 was not approved. Similarly, a proposal to increase the live load on decks, from 1.0 to 1.5 times the occupancy served, was denied.

Once the IRC is published, it will be time to start a new code change cycle once again, with Group A code changes due January 8, 2018. The schedule for the next cycle is already posted here.

What changes would you like to see for the 2021 codes?

Building Code Update: 2018 IBC to Reference ASCE 7-16

In early December, ICC posted the preliminary results of the Group B Online Governmental Consensus Vote, which included structural changes to the IBC, IEBC and IRC. ICC reports that there were more than 162,000 votes cast by eligible Voting Members during the three-week online voting period.

One subject of interest to building Designers, builders and some building-material suppliers was the disposition of a group of code changes that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference standard on loads for the IBC and IRC, and changed other parts of the IBC and IRC to reflect that.

The most controversial part of adopting the new ASCE 7-16 standard was its increase in roof component and cladding loads. The higher pressure coefficients in some cases raised the concern that the cost of roofing, roofing materials and roof repairs would be increased. Other items that raised some opposition were the new chapter on tsunami loads and the increase in deck and balcony live loads from 40 psf to 60 psf.

Despite these concerns, ICC members voted to approve the code change that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference for loads in the 2018 IBC, IRC and IEBC.

Along with that specific change, several other related changes were approved to correlate the IBC with adoption of ASCE 7-16. These included changes to Section 1604, General Design Requirements; adding in a new Section 1615 on Tsunami Design Requirements; modifications to Section 1613 so that seismic design requirements match ASCE 7-16; and deletion of Section 1609.6, Alternate All-Heights Method for wind design. On this last item, the argument was that since ASCE 7 now includes a simplified wind load design method, a competing method is not needed in the IBC.

Interestingly, a change to remove Strength Design and Allowable Stress Design load combinations from the IBC, which was approved by the IBC Structural Committee, was overturned and denied by the ICC Member voters. So those will remain in the IBC.

For the IRC, even though ASCE 7-16 will be shown as the referenced load standard, most changes to the actual code language relating to the new standard were denied. Items that were specifically denied included adoption of ASCE 7-16 wind speed maps, adoption of ASCE 7-16 roof pressure loading, and adoption of the new higher deck and balcony live loads. So the result is that the IBC and IRC will again be inconsistent with each other regarding wind design. On the other hand, the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Design Maps were approved.

Future Code Corner articles will address other changes approved for the 2018 IBC and IRC.

 

Hurricane Strong

This week will see the ultimate combination of events intended to raise public awareness of the necessity for disaster-resistant construction: It is week three of ICC’s Building Safety Month; National Hurricane Preparedness Week, as proclaimed by the U.S. president; the  NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour of the Gulf Coast; and the kickoff of the new HurricaneStrong program.

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The ICC says that “Building Safety Month is a public awareness campaign to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures. The campaign reinforces the need for adoption of modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce to maintain the system.” Building Safety Month has a different focus each week for four weeks.  Week One is “Building Solutions for All Ages.”  Week Two is “The Science Behind the Codes.”  Week Three is “Learn from the Past, Build for Tomorrow.” Finally, Week Four is “Building Codes, A Smart Investment.” Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to be a major sponsor of Week Three of Building Safety Month.

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National Hurricane Preparedness Week is recognized each year to raise awareness of the threat posed to Americans by hurricanes. A Presidential Proclamation urged Americans to visit www.Ready.gov and www.Hurricanes.gov/prepare to learn ways to prepare for dangerous hurricanes before they strike. Each day of the week has a different theme. The themes are:
⦁ Determine your risk; develop an evacuation plan
⦁ Secure an insurance check-up; assemble disaster supplies
⦁ Strengthen your home
⦁ Identify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event
⦁ Complete your written hurricane plan.

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This week also marks the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour, where NOAA hurricane experts will fly with two of their hurricane research aircraft to five Gulf Coast Cities. Members of the public are invited to come tour the planes and meet the Hurricane Center staff along with representatives of partner agencies. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. The aircraft on the tour are an Air Force WC-130J and a NOAA G-IV. These “hurricane hunters” are flown in and around hurricanes to gather data that aids in forecasting the future of the storm. As with Hurricane Preparedness Week, each day of the tour features a different theme.  Simpson Strong-Tie is pleased to be a sponsor for Thursday, when the theme is Strengthen Your Home.  Representatives from Simpson Strong-Tie will be attending the event on Thursday to help educate homeowners on ways to make their homes safer.

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Finally, this week is the official kickoff of a new hurricane resilience initiative, HurricaneStrong. Organized by FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and in partnership with FEMA, NOAA and other partners, the program aims to increase safety and reduce economic losses through collaboration with the most recognized public and private organizations in the disaster safety movement. HurricaneStrong is intended to become an annual effort, with activities starting prior to hurricane season and continuing through the end of the hurricane season on November 30. To learn more, visit www.hurricanestrong.org.


Experts consider these public education efforts to be more important every year, as it becomes longer since landfall of a major hurricane and as more and more people move to coastal areas. The public complacency bred from a lull in major storms has even been given a name: Hurricane Amnesia.


All these efforts may be coming at a good time, assuming one of the hurricane season forecasts is correct. A forecast from North Carolina State predicts an above-average Atlantic Basin hurricane season. On the other hand, forecasters at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University are predicting an approximately average year.


Are you prepared for the natural hazards to which your geographic area is vulnerable? If not, do you know where to get the information you need?

 

Florida Product Approvals Made Simple

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This year, the new 5th Edition of the Florida Building Code was released and is now in effect statewide. First printed in 2002, the Florida Building Code was developed as part of Florida’s response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew and other hurricanes in the state.

Another component, which I would like to take a closer look at in today’s post, is a separate Florida Product Approval system designed to be a single source for approval of construction products for manufacturers, Designers and code enforcers. This single system streamlines the previous approach of different procedures for product approval in different jurisdictions. While statewide approval is not required, many jurisdictions, manufacturers and specifiers prefer using the statewide system to the alternative, which is called local product approval. To ensure uniformity of the state system, Florida law compels local jurisdictions to accept state-approved products without requiring further testing and evaluation of other evidence, as long as the product is being used consistent with the conditions of its approval.

The rules of the Florida Product Approval system are in Florida Rule 61G20-3. Here is some basic information about Florida Product Approval.

The Florida Product Approval system is only available for “approval of products and systems, which comprise the building envelope and structural frame, for compliance with the structural requirements of the Florida Building Code.” So users will only find certain types of products approved there. However, if you work in areas where design for wind resistance is required, the Florida system can be a gold mine of information for tested, rated and evaluated products. Not only will you find products like Simpson Strong-Tie connectors with our ICC-ES and IAPMO UES evaluation reports, but thousands of other tested and rated windows, doors, shutters, roof covering materials and other products that don’t typically get evaluation reports from national entities. The specific categories of products covered under the Florida system are exterior doors, impact protective systems, panel walls, roofing, shutters, skylights, structural components and windows.

To protect consumers, a recent law passed in Florida states that a product may not be advertised, sold or marketed as offering protection from hurricanes, windstorms or wind-borne debris unless it has either State Product Approval or local product approval. Selling unapproved products in this way is considered a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Once a manufacturer understands the process for achieving a statewide approval, it is not difficult to achieve, but it can be expensive. The manufacturer must apply on the State of Florida Building Code Information System (BCIS) website at www.floridabuilding.org. To prove compliance with the code, the manufacturer must upload either a test report, a product certification from an approved certification entity, an evaluation report from a Florida Professional Engineer or Architect, or an evaluation report from an approved evaluation entity (ICC-ES, IAPMU UES, or Miami-Dade County Product Control). Then, the manufacturer must hire an independent validator to review the application to ensure it complies with the Product Approval Rule and that there are no clerical errors. Finally, once the validation is complete, staff from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation reviews the application. Depending on the method used to indicate code compliance, the application may be approved at that time or it may have to go through additional review by the Florida Building Commission.

Here are several ways to find out if a product is approved.

  1. For Simpson Strong-Tie products, we maintain a page on www.strongtie.com that lists our Florida Product Approvals.
  2. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation maintains a page where users can search Product Approvals by categories such as manufacturer, category of product, product name, or other attributes such as impact resistance or design pressure.
  3. A third-party group we work with has created a website called www.ApprovalZoom.com that lists various product evaluations and product approvals. In addition to listing Florida Product Approvals, they also list ICC-ES evaluation reports, Miami-Dade County Notices of Acceptance, Texas Department of Insurance Approvals, Los Angeles Department of Building Safety Approvals, AAMA certifications and Keystone certifications among others.
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Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Product Approvals search

The process for searching for approved products on the Florida BCIS is fairly simple.

  1. Go to www.floridabuilding.org
  2. On the menu on the left side of the page, click on Product Approval. Or, click this link to go directly to the search page.
  3. On the Product Approval Menu, click on Find a Product or Application. Note that at this location you can also search for approved organizations such as certification agencies, evaluation entities, quality assurance entities, testing laboratories and validation entities.
  4. Ensure the proper Code Version is shown. The current 2014 Florida Code is based on the 2012 International Codes.
  5. At this point, several options can be searched. You can search for all approvals by a specific product manufacturer or a certain type of building component by searching Category and Subcategory, or if searching for a specific product, by entering the manufacturer’s name and the product name.
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Select the option highlighted in red

I hope you find the information contained in the Florida Product Approval system useful. Do you have other needs to find approved products?

2015 IRC Adds New Options for Deck Construction

Early this summer a package arrived at my office that I knew right away was either a copy of a new building code or design standard. Some codes or standards are more exciting than others to open up and see what’s new and different. As it turns out, this package was the just-published 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). With my interest in wood decks, I have to admit that this was new information that I was happy to see.

Why? Similar to my blog post in May mentioning the limited design resources currently available to engineers, the IRC itself is also a work in progress when it comes to the prescriptive details included for decks. Performance requirements for the framing and guards has always been included in Chapter 3, but it wasn’t until the 2009 and 2012 editions that prescriptive information for attaching a deck ledger to a wood band joist with lag screws or bolts, and a detail for transferring lateral loads to a support structure, were included. Key improvements for the 2015 IRC include provisions for composite materials, clarification of the prescriptive ledger information, and prescriptive information for decking, joist and beam allowable spans, post heights and foundations.

Lateral load connections at the support structure were a significant topic during the development of the 2015 IRC. The permitted method already in the code involves constructing the Figure 507.2.3(1) detail with 1,500 pound hold-downs, in two or more locations per deck. The detail transfers the lateral load by bypassing the joist hanger and ledger connections, and ultimately transfers it into the floor diaphragm of the support structure. The concentrated nailing on the floor joist and the need to have access from below to the install the hold-down can cause undesirable complications for builders with existing conditions. A number of common conditions also differ significantly from the detail, such as the floor joists running parallel to the deck ledger and alternate floor joist types, including i-joists or trusses. In response to frequently-asked-questions from the industry, our technical bulletin T-DECKLATLOAD provides commentary to consider for these situations. The technical bulletin also offers an alternate floor joist-to-sheathing connection that may save the builder from removing a finished floor in an existing condition or from adding additional sheathing nailing from above.

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Figure: 2015 International Residential Code; International Code Council

In order to provide greater flexibility, a second option is now included in the 2015 IRC: constructing Figure R507.2.3(2) with 750 pound hold-downs in four locations per deck. This detail also transfers the lateral load in bypassing the joist hanger and ledger connections, but transfers the load to the wall plates, studs, or wall header by means of a screw anchoring the hold-down. In some cases, builders will hope this detail can save removing interior portions of an existing structure, but close attention will be required in terms of the deck joist elevation with respect to components of the wall and ensuring that hold-down anchor has proper penetration into the wall framing.

Figure: 2015 International Residential Code; International Code Council

Figure: 2015 International Residential Code; International Code Council

There are still a number of scenarios where a residential deck builder may need or want to consider hiring a structural engineer. Prescriptive details for guards and stairs are still not included in the code, as well as lateral considerations such as the deck diaphragm or the stability of a freestanding deck. Alternate loading conditions, such as the future presence of a hot tub, are also outside the scope of the current code. The allowance for alternative means and methods permitted by Chapter 3 of the 2015 IRC, is also something to keep in mind when the prescriptive options do not fit well with the project conditions. For example, the IRC ledger fastening table applies for connections to a band joist only and not to wall studs or other members of the adjacent support structure.

Have you been involved with any residential deck projects?  Let us know in the comments section below.

What If You Wrote A Code and Nobody Used It?

Simpson Strong-Tie spends quite a bit of time monitoring the development and adoption of building codes. This effort helps us to have products available to help our customers meet the latest code requirements.

The model codes most commonly used in this country, the International family of codes, are developed by the International Code Council (ICC). ICC lists the following benefits of a uniform, modern set of codes: “Code officials, architects, engineers, designers, and contractors can work with a consistent set of requirements throughout the United States. Manufacturers can put their efforts into research and development rather than designing to different sets of standards and can focus on being more competitive in worldwide markets. Uniform education and certification programs can be used internationally.” ICC offers a statement on why the newest codes should be adopted here.

Nevertheless, for varied reasons, many states do not require adoption of uniform codes statewide. A group composed of national business and consumer organizations, corporations, and emergency management officials is trying to change that. The group is called the BuildStrong Coalition, and they believe that the statewide adoption of building codes will “protect homes and buildings from the devastation of natural disasters.”

The group offers several studies to back this idea. One of the most compelling was a study performed by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety after Hurricane Charley in 2004. The study examined specific houses in the path of the hurricane and compared the damage to the year that the home was built. It showed that in homes built since the adoption of the statewide Florida Building Code, the severity of property losses was reduced by 42 percent, and the frequency of losses was reduced by 60 percent.

The coalition believes that “strong building codes provide our best first line of defense against natural disasters.” It appears that, for whatever reason, the number of disasters has been increasing of late. For example, in the 60’s, there were an average of 19 Major and Emergency Federal Disaster Declarations per year. In the 70’s, the average was 41 per year. In the 80’s, the average was 25 per year. In the 90’s, the average was 52 per year, and since 2000, the average has been 76 Disaster Declarations per year.

The coalition has been working with members of Congress on proposed legislation, the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, which would give states an incentive to adopt and enforce statewide building codes. Rather than mandate state action, the Act would reward states that adopt and enforce nationally recognized model building codes for residential and commercial structures with eligibility for an additional 4% of disaster relief aid after their next disaster strikes.

The Act was recently reintroduced by Senator Menendez and Representative Diaz-Balart. You can read a press release on the reintroduction here.

– Paul