Issue: 1/03

Editor's Note: We offer "Sound Off" as an open forum for industry professionals to express their opinions about industry issues, as well as to offer advice to our readers on how to manage their businesses. To submit material for this column, contact Kelly Johnson at

In an opinion piece published in the October issue of this magazine, ICBO Board Member Greg Johnson tried to market his organization's building code by attacking the building code developed by NFPA. Johnson offered more of his own wishful thinking than fact to back up his point. Let me take this opportunity to provide PME's readers with the truth so you can make your own decisions.

For many years, NFPA safety codes and standards have played an important role in protecting people and property around the world. NFPA's Life Safety Code(R); the National Electrical Code(R); NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinklers Systems, and dozens of other NFPA codes and standards are widely used in the structural environment. The NFPA codes have found widespread use because the technical committees that develop all the NFPA safety documents are properly balanced, allowing no one group to have too much influence over the process. The results of that balance are codes that reflect consensus among all interested parties (plumbing and mechanical professionals, the fire service, electrical professionals, manufacturers, architects, code officials, installers and others).

Until now, no model code developer had ever developed a building code through a process that allowed all affected interests to have a real voice. In contrast to NFPA, the International Code Council's process allows only government officials to have a final vote on code provisions.

NFPA understands that folks other than government officials have a lot of expertise on this issue. And, when the issue is as important as public safety, state and local governments should have the opportunity to select a model building code developed through a well-balanced consensus process.

To meet that need, NFPA developed NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code--the only model building code developed through a process accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)--a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the nation's voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.

Accreditation from ANSI demonstrates a code development organization's commitment to balanced input. Readers should know that ICC does not have ANSI accreditation for its building, fire, residential, electrical, or fuel gas codes--in fact, ICC has only achieved ANSI accreditation for its accessibility standards.

NFPA's process has led to the creation of a building code that contains provisions for every aspect of the design and construction of buildings and structures, as well as the design of integrated building systems for health, safety, comfort, and convenience. It provides for the selection and design of building construction types and structural design systems and assemblies, as well as fire protection systems and egress design requirements for life safety and protection. It is also the only building code featuring an occupancy-based format, along with integrated provisions for both performance-based design options and the rehabilitative use of existing buildings.

Mr. Johnson's implication that NFPA cannot provide adequate service is patently untrue. NFPA has an experienced staff in place to support the use of its building code. NFPA staff members include experts in structural engineering, architecture, and building systems. NFPA also administers professional certification programs for certified building inspectors and certified building plans examiners.

NFPA has a long tradition of providing quality service to support code adoption, and that will only grow and improve from this point forward. In contrast, all of the support services for the International Building Code have been provided individually by the three groups that make up the ICC. Mr. Johnson failed to point out to readers that at the end of 2002, those three groups will formally merge into one, making it unclear to all what level of support the newly formed ICC will be able to provide to jurisdictions or code users.

Another sharp distinction is that NFPA has posted the complete Building Construction and Safety Code on our Web site (, making it easy for jurisdictions to familiarize themselves with the new document. NFPA has further committed to providing jurisdictions that adopt NFPA 5000 with free training and associated code books. That same offer is made by NFPA's partner, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to jurisdictions that adopt the ANSI-accredited 2003 editions of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) or the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC). ICC won't make that offer, even in these days when state and local government budgets are extremely tight.

Quite simply, NFPA and its partners bring the best people and the best possible process together to create the best available safety codes. And, as state and local jurisdictions look to adopt those and other C3 documents, I am confident that they will make their final decision based on the merits of the codes and the fairness of the process and not on inaccurate "attack ads" from ICC.