The ICC, Building Codes, and the Insulation Industry

September 1, 2013

International Code Council (ICC) is a 50,000-member U.S. association dedicated
to public safety. ICC members include state, county, and municipal code
enforcement and fire officials, architects, engineers, builders, contractors,
elected officials, manufacturers, and others in the construction industry.

ICC mission focuses on providing the highest quality codes, standards, products,
and services for all concerned with safety and performance in the built environment.
The council is dedicated to developing model codes and standards to construct
safe, sustainable, affordable, and resilient structures.

United States has the highest standard of building safety in the world, which
can be attributed to the more than 200 years of collective experience shared by
the ICC and its predecessor organizations (Building Officials and Code Administrators, International Conference of
Building Officials,
and Southern Building Code Congress International).

The model codes known as the International Codes, or
I-Codes, were developed by ICC members to provide basic safeguards for people
at home, at school, and in the workplace. The I-Codes are a complete set of
comprehensive, coordinated building safety, fire prevention, and
energy-efficient model codes that support the construction industry’s need for
one set of codes without regional limitations. All 50 states and the District
of Columbia have adopted the I-Codes at the state or jurisdictional level.
Federal agencies including the Architect of the Capitol, General Services
Administration, National Park Service, Department of State, U.S. Forest
Service, and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs also enforce the I-Codes. The
Department of Defense references the International Building Code (IBC) for
constructing military facilities, including those that house U.S. troops around
the world and at home. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands enforce one or
more of the I-Codes. The ICC supports code compliance and adoptions with a
range of services including training, professional certification, code
opinions, and plan review. The ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) is a subsidiary
of the ICC that provides a comprehensive scope of technical evaluations for
code-compliant building materials. Based on its years of experience in
evaluating building products, affiliation with the ICC, and the fact that it
was created exclusively by building officials, ICC-ES is a widely accepted and
trusted source within the regulatory community. The ICC-ES Evaluation Report
Program includes technical evaluations of building products, components,
methods, and materials, and provides evidence that building products and
systems meet code requirements. ICC ES has approximately 1,400 evaluation

International Accreditation Service (IAS), another ICC subsidiary, has provided
accreditation services to diverse industries since 1975. IAS accredits testing
laboratories, inspection agencies, product certification agencies, and other
related organizations. IAS offers many accreditations supporting the insulation
industry. Examples include IAS’ accreditation of laboratories for thermal
insulation testing standards, agencies for inspection of manufacturing of foam
plastic insulation, and certification agencies for the listing of insulation

The Need for Construction Codes

The regulation of building construction in the
United States dates back to the 1700s, but it was not until the 1871 Chicago
Fire killed 250 people and destroyed 17,000 buildings that building safety came
to the forefront in the United States. In 1875, Chicago enacted a building code
and a fire prevention ordinance, starting a trend that slowly spread across the
country. By the early 1900s, special interest
groups, such as the insurance industry, joined others with similar concerns to
develop a model code. This first model building code gained widespread
popularity among legislative authorities. It provided an accessible source of
comprehensive technical requirements without the difficulties and expense of
investigation, research, and drafting of individual local codes. Today, most
jurisdictions in the United States have adopted and enforce building safety and
fire prevention codes. The combination of good codes and proper code
administration is the reason for the U.S. record of constructing buildings that
resist natural disasters relatively well in comparison with other nations that
can suffer terrible devastation and loss of life due to the absence of codes
and code compliance checks performed by properly trained and certified building

Based on building science and
technical knowledge, the purpose of a building code is to establish minimum
requirements necessary to provide safety, guard public health, and reduce
property losses. Model building codes provide protection from man-made and natural
disasters. Proper design and construction practices, in concert with a code
administration program that ensures compliance, actually keep construction
costs down by establishing uniformity in the construction industry. This
uniformity allows building and materials manufacturers to do business on a
larger scale—statewide, regionally, nationally, or internationally.

Code Development

The commitment to
building safety begins with a private-public partnership where codes are
developed by private-sector associations such as the ICC, but the authority to
adopt and implement the codes belongs to federal, state, and local authorities.
This is a unique system and very different from other countries where the
government may write and impose rules and regulations with little—if any—public

The U.S. standardization system
is very diverse. It is based on a market-driven, sector-based focus that comes
from participants who represent government, the construction industry, and
public- and private-sector interests. Volunteers who participate in the ICC
code development process represent federal, state, and local governments; the
private sector—such as architects, engineers, labor, homebuilders, contractors,
building owners and managers, energy advocates; and others. Most importantly,
the process—including the ICC’s governmental consensus process—is guided by
principles outlined in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular
A-119, and in Public Law 104-113, the National Technology Transfer and
Advancement Act, including:

  • Transparency: Information is accessible to all parties

  • Openness: All affected interests can participate

  • Consensus: Decisions are reached through consensus among those affected

  • Due Process: All views are considered and appeals are possible

  • Appeals Process: Is open and guided by due process

The ICC’s governmental
consensus process includes open forums of debate. This cooperative process
represents all interests and ensures responsiveness and compatibility between
the private sector and regulatory needs.

There are 8 steps to the
development of the I-Codes:

  1. Code
    changes are submitted by any interested person.

  2. Code
    changes are posted prior to a public hearing.

  3. Public
    committee action hearings allow anyone to attend, testify, and participate. There
    is no cost to attend or participate. The hearings are available on webcast.

  4. Committee
    action hearing results are posted prior to the public comment hearing.

  5. Public comments are sought on committee action
    hearing results, allowing an opportunity to consider specific support for or
    objections to the results of the public hearing.

  6. Public
    comments are posted for consideration.

  7. At
    public comment hearings, ICC governmental member voting representatives and
    honorary members dedicated to public safety cast votes of final determination
    on all code changes. This allows no proprietary interests to influence the

  8. New
    editions of the codes are published every 3 years.

To increase participation in
the code development process (cdp), the ICC expects to conduct tests of an
online voting process, which is the next step in the development of cdpACCESS,
ICC’s initiative to create the code development process of the future. The
cdpACCESS initiative seeks to allow remote voting and encompasses several
components, including submitting code changes and public comments, and
exchanging ideas and thoughts with colleagues and others with an interest in
building safety. Ultimately, cdpACCESS will allow participation in all phases
from a computer or tablet, regardless of the voter’s location.

Code Adoptions and the Role of Stakeholders

State or local governments are not obligated to
adopt model building safety or fire prevention codes, and may write their own
code or portions of a code. A model code has no legal standing until it is
adopted as law by a government entity (state legislature, state agency, county
board, city council, etc.). When adopted as law, all owners of property within
the boundaries of the adopting jurisdiction are required to comply with the
referred codes. Because codes are updated, existing structures usually are
required to meet the code that was enforced when the property was built. The
primary application of a building code is to regulate new construction.
Building codes usually only apply to an existing building if the building
undergoes reconstruction, rehabilitation, or alteration, or if the occupancy of
the existing building changes to a new occupancy as defined by the building

Most jurisdictions have a system in place for review of the codes,
adoption, and proper administration that follows a 3-year cycle. This period of
time coincides with the national model code cycle. Codes and standards are
developed and revised on a regular 3-year basis. This regular and timely
process of updating the codes is critical to ensure that new research,
technology, and safety practices can be incorporated into the codes.

Manufacturers and fabricators
invest resources in research and in the development of new products and
technologies. By supporting the adoption of current codes, the insulation
industry and members of the National Insulation Association ensure the latest
insulation technologies and products get into the marketplace on a timely
basis, and ensure installations are done in a way that is safe and effective.
Code updates include replacing provisions with those that are more cost
effective. It is not illegal to install new advancements without having updated
codes, just a lot harder and possibly more costly. The insulation industry is
an example where codes have played a role in getting new materials introduced
in the marketplace, such as spray foam insulation products, structural
insulated panels, insulated concrete forms, and low-VOC insulation materials.
In many cases, these new products have been developed in response to increased
demand for energy-efficient buildings, as reflected in the International Energy
Conservation Code (IECC). The IECC has played a tremendous role in the
insulation industry, driving both demand and innovation.

New findings and research into the role indoor air quality plays in
public safety are spurring discussions in code arenas that impact the
insulation industry. This is not only reflected in the International Green
Construction Code (IgCC), but in base codes like the International Mechanical
Code and the International Residential Code (IRC), where proposals seeking to
change the use of insulation in plenums have been debated. In the International
Plumbing Code, the requirements for pipe insulation have recently been revised,
and firestopping requirements continue to evolve.

One of the newest members of the I-Code family is the aforementioned
IgCC, which was developed in partnership with ASHRAE, ASTM, the U.S. Green
Building Council, the American Institute of Architects, and with the input of
industry professionals. The IgCC provides model code language to establish
baseline regulations for new and existing buildings related to energy
conservation, water efficiency, building owner responsibilities, site impacts,
building waste, materials, and other considerations. The IgCC provides a
natural complement for voluntary rating systems that extend beyond the IgCC’s
baseline, such as LEED, for cutting-edge applications of green building design.
Similar to other model codes, the IgCC is written in enforceable language and
is coordinated with the other I-Codes. Currently, it is in use or has been
adopted in 10 states, with a few jurisdictions reviewing it for adoption
possibly later this year or in early 2014. As with all the model codes, the ICC
and its subsidiaries provide a robust infrastructure to support the
administration of the IgCC, including training, certification, commissioning
guidelines, commentaries, handbooks, study companions, and more.

Another important reason to
keep codes current is the correlation and harmonization between the codes and
the referenced standards. In a 2003 article, Mark Johnson, Executive Vice
President and Director of Business Development for ICC, wrote about this
subject: ?The building industry is extremely competitive, where manufacturers
of materials and innovative new products compete head-to-head with each other
for a share of construction spending. In this fast-paced entrepreneurial
environment, standards help to assure that the quality of building products and
materials do not degenerate to unsafe levels as a result of competitive
pressures to reduce costs and streamline operations. Through the development
and publication of quality standards, a level playing field is established,
which helps to ensure not only quality, but fair competition. Building
standards establish the minimum level of safety required, and reflect the level
of risk society is willing to bear.?

Building standards adopted by
reference in the I-Codes can be broken down into 4 basic categories: material,
installation, testing, and design standards.

  • Material standards specify the physical properties of a material or
    manufactured product and establish quality requirements.

  • Installation standards regulate the proper installation and placement of
    building components or systems.

  • Testing standards encompass structural unit and system tests, durability
    tests, and fire tests.

  • Design standards define the methods of design and specify the accepted
    design procedures, engineering formulas, and calculation methods.

It is not only industry that
benefits from current codes. The safety of firefighters and emergency
responders is included in the scope of the model codes.

If a business owner wishes to install a proven new technology,
installers and builders have access to the information needed to install.
Insulation fabricators, manufacturers, contractors, and installers are
important stakeholders in the development of the codes, as well as in the
adoption and implementation. Participation in the code development is vital to
ensure the codes reflect and meet the needs of the insulation industry.

For all the reasons listed
above, it is important for industry to voice its support at the state and local
level for the adoption of current codes.

ICC’s Governmental Members

Governmental members are code officials dedicated
to safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of the public. They are charged
with the enforcement of state or local building codes. Their professional
responsibilities include receiving applications; issuing permits for new
construction; reviewing building plans, building lots, and site conditions for
compliance with the building, fire, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical codes;
reviewing/performing building inspections; and keeping official records and
inspection reports.

The education requirements to
become a code official vary from state to state but may include technical
school, vocational college, or a university degree. Comprehending and interpreting
technical and legal documents like codes and standards requires knowledge about
architecture, legal aspects of code administration, construction technology,
drafting, blueprint reading, science, and mathematics.

ICC High School Technical Training Program

The ICC is a major supporter and proponent of
technical and vocational training. It recognizes the building trades as a
crucial component of the building community. Two years ago, the ICC endorsed
and expanded a program for technical high schools based on a pilot program
started in 2009 at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air, Maryland. The
instructors referenced the IRC as the students progressed through the
construction of their projects. The ICC supports and encourages technical high
schools to offer young people entering the workforce hands-on construction
experience paired with tools and knowledge about the codes. With solid code
knowledge, students may transition into the field of inspections or any other
construction discipline.

The ICC established a
Certificate of Achievement to recognize a technical high school student’s
successful completion of all program elements and passing a 30-question test
pertaining to a specific trade: building, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC.
Students have the opportunity to achieve 1 or all 4 Certificates of
Achievement. Students who receive all 4 certificates may transition to the ICC’s National Certification Program for code
Many employers require inspectors to have experience in
the construction industry, complete an apprenticeship program, have studied engineering or architecture, or have
an Associate’s
degree from a
community college in construction technology,
blueprint reading, or
building inspection. The ICC certifications enhance a candidate’s chances for
better paying, higher responsibility jobs.

The program provides benefits
for all. By partnering with technical high schools, the ICC seeks to create an
advanced workforce knowledgeable in codes, and the students of the technical
programs receive the self-assurance and confidence one gains from an extensive
education. Most importantly, the general public benefits by having personnel
who properly enforce the codes and ensure that the places where we live, work,
and play are safe for all to enjoy.