The building industry is a complex regulatory landscape with varied codes and requirements by state. Competing priorities, such as meeting code and building for resiliency, can make the landscape even more complicated.
For building professionals, keeping up with building code updates is critical for designing structures that keep their inhabitants safe and for choosing products that help make meeting code requirements as simple as possible.
We caught up with Neil Freidberg, Building Science Manager at LP, for a building regulatory update. Let’s see what’s new and how you can partner with LP to meet codes and build better.
How often is the International Building Code updated?
When it comes to how often building codes are updated, the process involves production, review and final approval. “Codes are updated every three years, and then states can choose to adopt the code that is released,” says Freidberg. “Local municipalities can also choose to make their codes stricter or looser.” He cites Texas as an example, which adopts new codes every six years instead of three.
How can builders keep up with building code updates?
The International Code Council® (ICC®) website is a great source for up-to-date information. Freidberg also points to the U.S. Department of Energy for state-by-state code requirements. Check out their resources here.
“The biggest updates are typically around energy or the options around code,” Freidberg says. “Some states adopt these faster and some more slowly.” He adds that “now there are a lot more paths to build a home that give builders more options for how they want to build.”
Many may not be familiar with this new paths-based approach. “Imagine a cone,” Freidberg says. “There are many paths that lead to the point of the cone; they all result in building a house, but they’re all different paths.” These various paths focus on different priorities for a builder: energy-conscious building, for example, or prescriptive building (focusing only on mandatory requirements).
This approach allows builders to choose a path and corresponding features they want to bring to the forefront of their builds. All paths will involve minimum code requirements, but some allow builders to focus on specific concerns, like building a more energy-efficient home than the minimum code would require.
“Our products protect a builder’s investments in energy efficiency and other particular building goals,” Freidberg adds. “For example, LP WeatherLogic® Air & Water Barrier will help protect insulation material as well as keeping water and air out.”
LP® TechShield® Radiant Barrier also may contribute to lower HERS scores by reducing attic temperatures and by helping attic insulation work more efficiently. Architects may especially find LP® FlameBlock® Fire-Rated Sheathing beneficial, as it allows them to meet code without sacrificing design flexibility. “Even LP Legacy® sub-flooring forms a great foundation to build around protecting your investments,” Freidberg adds.
Need a quick review of a few common terms and organizations that have to do with building codes, updates and more? Check out our glossary to refresh your memory.
The Engineered Wood Association (APA)
The APA works to provide wood products of exceptional strength and reliability along with new solutions and improved processes. An APA trademark on a product signifies quality and adherence to the APA’s strict standards.
When a panel is classified as Exposure I, it is designed to resist moisture during active construction so its structural performance will not be compromised. However, it is not intended to be permanently exposed to moisture from weather events.
International Building Code® (IBC®)
As the foundation of the Family of International Codes®, the IBC is a tool that helps to preserve public health with guidelines intended to keep the built environment safe and secure.
International Code Council (ICC)
The ICC offers businesses the tools they need to build structures that keep inhabitants safe worldwide. They also work with codes and standards, product testing, accreditation, training, consulting and more.
International Code Council—Evaluation Service (ICC-ES)
Responsible for performing technical evaluations of building products, the ICC-ES checks for code compliance and is the most widely accepted evaluation agency in the nation.
International Residential Code® (IRC®)
Specifically intended for use with one- and two-family homes and townhouses, the IRC helps preserve the health, safe and wellbeing of the people living in these types of dwellings through code provisions.
PS 1 & PS 2 Standards
As nationally recognized Voluntary Product Standards, both PS 1 and PS 2 standards establish requirements for different products. PS 1 standards handle structural plywood and PS 2 standards refer to structural wood-based panels, including OSB.
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
An STC rating roughly estimates the reduction of sound (measured in decibels) that a partition—such as a wall, ceiling, floor, door or window—can provide. This standardized rating is provided by ASTM E413.
Structural I Rated Sheathing provides greater cross-panel strength and stiffness for use in particularly demanding portions of a build. As a subcategory of APA-rated sheathing, Structural I sheathing meets all standard OSB requirements along with some additional performance requirements.
To get involved in the code process or to ask more questions, be sure to check out your local Home Builders Association. Environmental groups can also help you connect to decision-makers for building codes. Check out how to find a local group here.