Julius Ballanco: "My Apologies to The ICC"
Last month, I took the International Code Council (ICC) to task for not appointing a representative of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) to the Plumbing Code Change Committee. Well, I was wrong. ICC did, in fact, appoint an ASPE representative to the Plumbing Code Committee. So, my sincere apologies to ICC for writing such nasty words.
My comments were based on the initial posting on the ICC Website. Yes, I was informed by the ICC that corrections were being made. Hence, I should have waited. I will admit to being overzealous in my attempt to support ASPE.
You, the readers, deserve accurate reporting of the facts. I failed you in my reporting last month. I will continue to do my best to never repeat this mistake. Again, my apologies.
Besides ASPE, this important committee has representatives from Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC), the United Association (UA), Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI), NSF Intl., and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
All are excellent selections.
Fuel Gas Code ChangesThere are a number of proposed changes to the Fuel Gas Code that will impact the piping design of a gas piping system. Again, one of the hot issues will be whether a gas pipe can run between townhouse units. A recent change to the code restricted gas piping from running inside between townhouse units. Interestingly, if the units were condominiums, the gas piping could run between units inside the building.
The current code makes no sense. Perhaps this year, the Committee and International Code Council membership will see fit to approve the change that will once again allow gas piping between townhouse units. It should also be noted that other piping is permitted between townhouse units, including water, drainage, and vent pipe. So, one has to ask, why restrict gas piping?
The code permits gas piping to be located below grade and to enter the building. There is a change proposed that would require the gas piping to exit the ground outside before running into the building. This is required in many parts of the country. However, in more urban areas, it has not always been considered practical. This change should make for interesting discussion.
The American Gas Association has proposed a change that would regulate the installation of gas tubing behind the walls and partitions. One of the requirements is that the tubing be run both horizontally and vertically. I had to read that a few times, until it started to make sense. When you encounter a pipe behind a wall, you tend to think that it either runs up and down, or side to side. You don’t anticipate a pipe running diagonally. Hence, the requirement seemed appropriate for safety concerns.
A change to the hanger requirements would stipulate that gas piping hangers must be metallic. This would restrict plastic hangers for gas piping. The change would also recognize the use of joists and other building structural elements to support the gas piping.
A change to the venting requirements would prevent a fuel-fired appliance from discharging into a Florida room. A Florida room is an outdoor area that is completely enclosed by screened-in walls and a roof. If the mesh is too tight (the change reads smaller than 1/4-inch mesh), the concern is that the flue gases will not properly escape the area, placing the occupants in danger.
Mechanical Code ChangesIt seems that, with each code change cycle, there are changes to the requirements for the location of appliances. This cycle is no different. Many of these changes are nickel-and-dime changes that simply wordsmith the requirements.
One such change that would impact commercial construction is a provision that would require equipment placed on the ground to be located on a concrete platform that is a minimum of three inches above surrounding grade. Many years ago, I asked where the three-inch stipulation came from. A colleague was surprised that I didn’t know that it is based on a 2" x 4" form for concrete being placed on the ground. The concrete can go a half-inch into the ground and leave three inches above grade. I followed up with a question: “What does this have to do with health and safety?” The answer was, “Nothing, it is just convenient.”
The code change basically admits to that convenience by saying it is required in the Residential Code, so it should be required in the Mechanical Code. Since reading the code change, I have been looking at outdoor appliance installations. There aren’t that many that have three inches of concrete above grade. Many have grading so that the pad is just slightly above grade. The proposal will determine if a three-inch height is a necessary requirement for health and safety.
The ventilation requirements are subject to many changes. Last cycle, the ventilation requirements were completely rewritten to conform to ASHRAE 62. This cycle, there is a change to delete all of these requirements and replace them with text similar to what was previously included in the code. The concern is that the new requirements are extremely difficult for inspectors to understand. There is truth in the justification. However, is this an adequate reason for modifying the code?
An engineer has proposed a complete modification of the hydronic piping section. The section would reference American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B31.9 for hydronic piping. However, the reference to plastic pipe would remain in Chapter 12. A companion change would delete the joining methods for plastic pipe. Hence, the pipe would remain in the code, but the joining methods would not.
Many mechanical engineers like using ASME B31.9 for designing hydronic piping systems. When reviewing this standard, it is obvious that it was written for steel pipe hydronic systems. While copper is mentioned, the emphasis is steel pipe systems. Plastic pipe is not addressed as completely as the Mechanical Code. For that reason, some consider B31.9 to be an “old school” standard.
Following these series of changes are proposals to reference additional plastic piping materials for hydronic systems. The newer materials would include raised temperature polyethylene and PE-AL-PE.
The ICC has posted the schedule for the code change hearings in Palm Springs, CA. The complete code change book can be downloaded from the ICC Web site, www.iccsafe.org. I hope to see some of you at the code change hearings next month.