Ten Years Of Building Code Official Connections

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the American Wood Council’s (AWC) little known but highly effective Code Official Connections program. There are nearly 6,200 building code officials who have opted-in to receive an AWC enewsletter each month. As the building codes have become more complex, AWC uses this regular communication as a forum to address some of the more complicated issues relevant to our industry and of interest to code officials. AWC works hard to build and maintain a relationship with the community of code officials throughout the country. Through efforts like Code Official Connections, in-person educational events, attendance at state conferences, and service to the International Code Council (ICC), AWC is a recognized and trusted name with building and fire officials.
Over the past 10 years, AWC has also relied on Code Official Connections to get the word out quickly on critical code issues, helping to shape opinions and perceptions in ways other competing materials simply are not able to replicate.
For example, last year the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) issued a press release warning of the potential for catastrophic failure of wood structures built with European lumber, which eventually escalated to lumberyards in surrounding states refusing North American lumber with a specific gravity of less than 0.42. Throughout the evolving process, AWC used the Code Official Connections program to communicate to code officials in the affected areas to clarify the confusion caused by the NCDOI press release. Eventually, AWC developed a new table of design values for multi-species lumber grade marks to help code officials and designers navigate the complications that have emerged in grade marking and stamps, which may sometimes indicate more than a single species of wood. In time sensitive situations like this, quickly providing code officials with technical guidance affecting wood products is an important step in assuring their continual acceptance in modern wood construction.
During last year’s 2024 Group A Code Development Process, the Code Official Connections program again proved critical. Competing materials launched a misinformation campaign in the attempt to overturn a code change proposal to increase the ceiling area from 20% to 100% exposed mass timber in Type IV-B. The change proposal, which was based on AWC fire testing, was successful in the Committee Action Hearings and Public Comment Hearings. This meant that the opposition needed to garner more than a 2/3 majority vote in the online voting process to prevent the proposal from being incorporated into the 2024 I-Codes.
AWC used the Code Official Connections program to provide code officials with the technical basis for the code change, and to correct the misinformation shared by competing material groups. Additionally, AWC presented an educational offering featuring the lead scientist for the fire research to program participants. Despite significant opposition from other material interests, the proposal passed to allow 100% exposed mass timber ceilings in Type IV-B. This change to the 2024 International Building Code will result in significant cost savings for 12 story, 180’ mass timber structures, while maintaining the level of fire performance established by the ICC Tall Wood Building Ad Hoc Committee.
One of AWC’s core initiatives is to help code officials and designers understand the building codes and applicable standards that impact the use of wood products. Building and maintaining strong relationships with everyone involved in the development of codes and standards helps ensure that wood products will continue to enjoy broad regulatory acceptance. Code Official Connections has become an incredibly valuable tool in AWC’s toolbox for code engagement, and the number of participating code officials in the program is a testament to AWC’s reputation as a trusted and credible source of technical information in the code development process.

By Jackson Morrill

Jackson Morrill President & CEO American Wood Council

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