The ICC announced it is switching its spring code change hearings from in-person to virtual hearings. The code change hearings were originally scheduled for two weeks in April in Rochester, New York. With the change to virtual hearings, ICC extended the length of time to four weeks. The virtual hearing will be held from April 10 to May 5.
If ICC follows its normal procedures, hearings will continue on weekends as well as, weekdays. ICC is also known for its late nights, sometimes extending hearings until 11 p.m. in the evenings. It will be curious to see how disciplined the hearings will be regarding time.
Many of us are getting sick and tired of COVID-19 related web meetings. It seems that we had quadrupled the number of meetings by switching from in-person events to virtual meetings. Another thing that my colleagues and I have noticed is web meetings do not result in efficient accomplishments. When you have a full day meeting, you know your limitation of time. Web meetings seem to always end with, “Well, let’s meet again next week.”
When I hear that comment, I am often tempted to say, “Same bat time, same bat channel.” But that would be aging me.
During the spring hearings, it is not uncommon to have more than 1,000 people in the two hearing rooms. To date, my largest standards committee web meeting had 156 people in attendance. That was unwieldy. Plus, you had to request permission to speak. If the chair doesn’t like you, you were never granted access. They controlled the mute button on your microphone. I suspect ICC will do the same thing.
However, one of the beauties of a virtual hearing is that there can be a significant increase in the number of people that can attend and testify. You can sit in your home office and connect to the hearings. You won’t have to physically travel to Rochester.
It is surprising that ICC switched to a virtual code hearing so early in the process. The announcement of an impending vaccine appeared at the time I am writing this column. IAPMO still hopes to have in-person code hearings the first week of May in Anaheim, California. I sure hope that by May, I will have been able to receive the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The code change deadline for both the ICC codes and the IAPMO codes has passed. All of the technical changes to the 2024 editions to the Plumbing Codes, Mechanical Codes and Fuel Gas Code have been submitted. However, the monographs of the code changes will not be available for a few weeks. Both ICC and IAPMO will post the monographs on their respective websites.
Everyone has been asking what the hot subject matters are for the 2024 code changes. For IAPMO, one of the leading topics is legionella. The IAPMO Legionella Task Group has changes proposed to the Uniform Mechanical Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. The requirements being proposed are more specific than the requirements currently found in the 2021 Uniform Plumbing Code.
For the Uniform Mechanical Code, there are action levels for mechanical systems based on the amount of Legionella bacteria found in a given system. A reference to ASHRAE 188 and Guideline 12 is also included in the proposed change.
If completed by the deadline given by the ICC A117.1 Committee, the ICC codes may see changes related to assisted use toilet facilities and adult changing stations. Both have been discussed by the ICC A117.1 Committee. The discussions on adult changing stations have centered around the need to begin mandating these stations in certain buildings, such as schools, transportation facilities and highway rest stops.
Adult changing stations are designed to accommodate adults that have needs for changing diapers. Whether it be an onset medical condition or a preexisting condition, there are very few facilities provided for adults to change diapers. While baby changing stations have become the norm, adult changing stations are an anomaly. Again, that may change with the proposed code changes being considered.
The assisted use plumbing fixtures are currently an alternative to providing accessible fixtures in certain institutional facilities. The changes will relate to the placement of shower fixtures, spacing around a shower and the extent of a shower pan under the bathroom floor. Under one proposal, if the shower does not have a threshold, the entire room would have to be included as a wet room.
It is anticipated that there will be code changes related to the privacy compartment for water closets and urinals. With the allowance of an all gender toilet room, the ICC Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Code Action Committee (PMGCAC) and others have discussed the level of privacy that needs to be provided for the fixtures. The privacy would include how far the compartment extends to the floor and ceiling, as well as, preventing visual observation through the cracks in the door.
Another interesting change being proposed is the allowance of natural refrigerants in water coolers located in exit access corridors. With the movement to low global warming potential refrigerants, water cooler manufacturers are considering the use of R-290, propane, for the refrigerant circuit. However, as a highly flammable refrigerant, there is a restriction on the location of systems using R290. ASHRAE 15 was recently modified to allow listed systems using Group A2 and A3 refrigerants to be located in exit access corridors. This change provides an opportunity to the water cooler manufacturers. However, the codes also have to change to be consistent with ASHRAE 15.
With a new year and a new president, there is a lot of optimism for a better 2021 compared to 2020. I hope that virtual code hearings and standards meetings will become a thing of the past and we will once again be able to meet in person and exchange ideas. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that web meetings are not that efficient in the codes and standards profession. There is a true downside to the lack of personal interaction.
A lot can be said about the give and take that goes on behind the scenes at codes and standards meetings. I, for one, miss that.
The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily represent PM Engineer or BNP Media.