Sealed Code Compliance Reports: A Law-Abiding, Streamlined Alternative
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Any innovation in building construction, whether it’s a new product, material or method, needs to be compliant with the building code before it can be implemented or used in the field. Traditionally, obtaining code compliance for a product can be a complicated, sometimes messy, and certainly a drawn-out process. Not for the faint of heart, code compliance can turn into a saga spanning well over a year, requiring significant resources. In turn, the existing process creates a barrier to bringing a revolutionary product or process to market.
Fortunately, the Structural Building Components Research Institute (SBCRI), utilizing the staff of Qualtim, is offering a new, streamlined approach to code compliance. It’s a road less traveled that can be much quicker and more robust than the traditional path, because it is focused solely on complying with existing law. SBCRI makes use of an efficient approach for testing and analysis. The results of the testing are summarized in a Technical Evaluation Report (TER), which is intended to assist those who enforce the codes and make the final determination of a product’s compliance with the code.
Overall, the goal of a TER is to:
- Provide a transparent set of design values that are either defined by or implied by the International Residential Code (IRC), International Building Code (IBC), International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and any referenced consensus standards as they relate to structural framing.
- Define a performance benchmark and the logic paths for comparative performance, which SBCRI calls comparative equivalency.
- Provide a technically reasonable foundation upon which to make engineering judgments when using generally accepted engineering methods in concert with the code compliance requirements.
- Keep the outcomes understandable and simple to follow and use.
- Facilitate a level playing field, allowing for fair and understandable product development.
In essence, SBRCI intends the TER process to help foster creative engineering innovation in the construction industry.
How Does It Work?
First, SBCRI meets with a client and evaluates their proposed building product, material or method. SBCRI’s registered professional engineering staff help identify the sections of the building code that apply to the client’s concept and define the need for a code-compliance evaluation. SBCRI then develops a series of test protocols to conduct structural testing and establish that the client’s concept is a code-compliant alternative.
ANSI/ACLASS certified as an ILAC-MLA accredited testing agency, SBCRI meets the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 for all its testing techniques used to determine a structural product’s real-life design limit states. SBCRI tests products as they would actually be installed in a structure to resist the same loading conditions encountered in the field. This “in-situ” testing, combined with its technical and engineering staff’s structural building component expertise, provides the foundation for the TER.
Technical staff compiles and analyzes the resulting test data and generates the TER, which is in turn signed and sealed by one of its professional engineers. Therefore, the TER process provides a code-compliant evaluation that references sufficient test data and associated engineering analysis to assure building code equivalency for an alternative material, product or assembly.
As the ICC Evaluation Service states in its “1.0 PURPOSE” statement, “ICC-ES evaluation reports assist those enforcing model codes in determining whether a given subject complies with those codes…Approval for use is the prerogative and responsibility of the Code Official; ICC-ES does not intend to assume, nor can ICC-ES assume, that prerogative and responsibility.” A TER and other Approved Sources perform this function.
Do TERs Comply with the Law?
The simple answer is yes! Adopted into local or state law, the building code has key provisions that make creative and innovative testing and engineering work possible (see sidebar below).
SBCRI and Qualtim can provide transparent design values that are either defined or implied by the building code (IRC, IBC, IECC, IgCC, referenced consensus standards, etc.). SBCRI calls the latter comparative equivalency design values.
Firmly based on generally accepted engineering methods and code compliance requirements, the TER defines a product’s performance benchmark and the rationale used to determine comparative performance. The TER is also affixed with a professional engineer’s seal. Once a product’s design limits are known, it can be compared to other products on a level playing field basis, which promotes creative engineering and innovation in the building construction industry.
When a company looks for product development testing, engineering analysis, design value development and code-compliance assistance, it wants to:
- Get the product or idea/innovation to market quickly;
- Work with professionals who have expertise in the industry;
- Navigate the code compliance process as efficiently as possible; and
- Obtain a sealed report documenting the product’s code compliance.
All of this is possible through SBCRI’s Technical Evaluation Report (TER) process.
If you have an idea for a new product, consider SBCRI’s streamlined TER approach. The goal is simple: Define the code compliant benchmark, test your product against that benchmark, and compete on a fair and understandable basis. It may make the difference between a product successfully brought to market that generates sales immediately, and one whose sales never take off in the way that the owner expected.
- APPROVED AGENCY – “An established and recognized agency regularly engaged in conducting tests or furnishing inspection services, when such agency has been approved.” SBCRI meets the code definition of an Approved Agency.
- APPROVED SOURCE – “An independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.” SBCRI furthermore meets the definition of Approved Source.
- APPROVED – “Acceptable to the code official or authority having jurisdiction.”
- 104.11 Alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment. The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.
- 104.11.1 Research reports. Supporting data, where necessary to assist in the approval of materials or assemblies not specifically provided for in this code, shall consist of valid research reports from approved sources.
- 104.11.2 Tests. Whenever there is insufficient evidence of compliance with the provisions of this code, or evidence that a material or method does not conform to the requirements of this code, or in order to substantiate claims for alternative materials or methods, the building official shall have the authority to require tests as evidence of compliance to be made at no expense to the jurisdiction. Test methods shall be as specified in this code or by other recognized test standards. In the absence of recognized and accepted test methods, the building official shall approve the testing procedures. Tests shall be performed by an approved agency. Reports of such tests shall be retained by the building official for the period required for retention of public records.