Inconsistency reigned at this year’s ICC final code hearings.

When you attend International Code Council (ICC) final code change hearings, you come to expect consistency in the voting on code changes. Often, different committees vote inconsistently on similar subject matters. The final hearing is the chance to have the inconsistency corrected. This year, however, the voting membership was often as inconsistent as the different committees.

A good example of this anomaly occurred in the area of dryer exhaust vents. There were numerous changes to the International Mechanical Code (IMC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). For the final hearing, the changes are all considered consecutively to help foster consistency.

However, even with this help, the voting resulted with the IMC restricting dryer exhaust vents to 25 feet without any consideration of long radius fittings.The IRC allows a distance of 35 feet and permits long radius fittings to reduce the length. The IMC requires the length of the dryer exhaust vent to be posted, while the IRC does not. The IMC requires the penetration of a wall or ceiling with a dry exhaust vent to be sealed with noncombustible material, fire caulking or a metallic dryer box. The IRC has no requirements for sealing the penetration.

Another inconsistent action was with push-fit fittings. The fittings were approved for use in the IRC; however, a similar change to the IPC was denied.

The IRC added requirements for all threads to be tapered. The IPC had a similar change denied. While the change may have sounded good, it would, in effect, eliminate the use of threads in traps, trap adapters and unions. All of these threads are straight threads.

ASPE Slammed

Once again, the ICC membership slammed ASPE. For the past number of years, single-stack venting has been proposed to the International Plumbing Code (IPC). This change has received widespread support from ASPE. The design is extremely popular in Philadelphia.

The Code Change Committee recommended denial of the change because they thought there were enough options for venting. The result of this ludicrous decision was that any approval would require a two-thirds vote.

The objections to the single-stack venting change amounted to, “I don’t understand it and you need an engineer to design this system.” After an impassioned plea stating that, of course, you need an engineer and the code change is technically correct, the membership voted to overturn the code change. Unfortunately, the change failed to obtain the super majority by nine votes.

The membership cannot be faulted for not approving single-stack venting. With 60% of the members supporting the change, it was the Code Committee’s unintelligent vote that prevented approval. Considering the recent action at the IAPMO Plumbing Technical Committee meeting, the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) will now have more venting options than the International Plumbing Code. Who would have ever thought that the UPC would be the more open code and the IPC the restrictive code when it comes to venting?

A proposed change to the fixture table for smaller assembly buildings also was denied. This change would have corrected the excessive fixture requirements for assembly buildings having an occupant load of 1,500 people or less. Again, the Code Committee had recommended denial of the change. There was a considerable amount of discussion regarding the hardship to high school sports stadiums and arenas. That, however, did not sway the necessary two-thirds vote.

Other than those two votes, the remaining plumbing code changes went as predicted. There were changes to the sizing of grease interceptors. The change will add sizing requirements that are consistent with Plumbing and Drainage Institute (PDI) guidelines.

A change to remove the mandatory water hammer arrester requirements was denied. The change would have left the water hammer requirements to the discretion of the plumbing designer.

The new standard for vitreous china, non-water-supplied urinals was approved. This standard is in addition to the plastic urinal standard, which addresses non-water-supplied urinals.

A proposed change would have required every water heater to be either installed in a pan or in a room with a floor drain. While this is common practice in commercial construction, it is not in residential construction. The Code Committee had recommended approval of this change; however, the membership realized the hardship this would pose on existing buildings requiring a water heater replacement. The change was subsequently denied.

In the IMC, a change proposed the elimination of low water cutoff valves when the hot water piping system was not located below the boiler. This change was defeated with the code continuing to mandate low water cutoff valves for all boilers.

New requirements were added to regulate radiant floor heating systems. A thermal barrier having an R value of 5 or higher will be required for all slab installations. For above-floor heating, insulation having an R value of 11 or higher will be required. Insulation is not required when engineering calculations prove that it will not decrease the efficiency of the installation. The new radiant heating requirements are consistent with current design practices.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There were many changes to all of the codes that would mandate carbon monoxide detectors. These changes generated considerable discussion. The success stories with carbon monoxide detectors were well established. Those opposing carbon monoxide detectors argued that the technology was not advanced enough. They also claimed that the local fire service would be taxed with too many false alarms. Finally, they claimed that, after a while, people will ignore the alarms and these will become useless.

Having been protected with a carbon monoxide detector in my own home for years, I could not believe the discussion opposed to mandating them. The argument regarding technology could be made for every building product or system. Aren’t we continually updating technology?

These changes received a recommendation of denial from the various Code Committees. The main change was overturned; however, it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required for approval.

With this round of code changes complete, the next cycle of ICC begins on Aug. 20, 2007. This is the final deadline for submitting proposed changes that will impact the 2009 editions of the ICC codes.