ICC Indicates Hands-Off Approach Regarding SP Design Value Changes

Originally published by: SBCAMay 25, 2012

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The International Code Council (ICC) has issued a response (click on the first pdf link below to view the document) to SBCA’s May 10th letter (click on the second pdf link below to view the document). Highlighted are key portions of the letter for reference. Given the ICC’s response, SBCA interprets the ICC’s position as follows:

The ICC letter states, “The ICC has made no determination regarding the lumber design value reductions, the [ICC] Board having denied the American Wood Council's (AWC) request for an emergency amendment at this time.” Therefore, the ICC provides no counsel with respect to the implementation of lumber design value reductions that the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB) states become effective June 1, 2012 (per SPIB’s published Supplement No. 9 to the SPIB’s 2002 Grading Rules).

Further, the ICC letter does, “reiterate the instructions of the ALSC Board of Review in their minutes dated January 5, 2012 that, 'All design professionals are advised in the strongest terms by the Board to evaluate this information in formulating their designs in the interim period.'” 

The ICC appears to leave the implementation of these lumber design value reductions up to the adoption process that has been established by the adopting authority (i.e. the local jurisdiction), albeit in the context of the ALSC minutes.

Hence, it appears that in the short term ICC is taking essentially a “hands off” position with respect to implementation, and leaving it to others to decide their best course of action.

Given this, SBCA provides the following logic path with respect to market implementation of the lumber design value reductions per the June 1, 2012 SPIB design value effective date:

1.       The building code (prescriptive and engineered), along with all structural engineering, is founded on principles intended to establish provisions consistent with the scope of the code and generally accepted engineering practice that adequately protect public health, safety and welfare.

2.       For construction purposes, lumber grade-marks = lumber design values.

3.       It is appropriate to use the lumber expertise and judgments made by American Wood Council (AWC), and follow AWC’s lead by using the pre-June 1, 2012 design values as appropriate, and transition to the post-June 1, 2012 design values for all Southern Pine (SP) lumber-related structural resistance, for both prescriptive and engineered applications, by June 1,  as suggested by AWC.

4.       Adopting the AWC position and June 1, 2012 implementation approach is consistent with the recommendations of the ALSC, the SPIB supplement No. 9 and ICC’s reference to  ALSC’s very specific cautionary language stating, “[ALSC] cautions all interested parties to take note of all available information in making design decisions in the interim.” The values in the SPIB proposal represent approximately a 25-30% reduction. Many of the critics of the proposal acknowledged that some reductions were in order, albeit the magnitude of those reductions was disputed. All design professionals are advised in the strongest terms by the Board to evaluate this information in formulating their designs in the interim period. [Emphasis not added]”

5.       SPIB’s Supplement No. 9 sets out the new design values effective June 1, 2012 (the “Supplement No. 9 Design Values”). Consistent with the ALSC Ruling, the only design values that will change on June 1, 2012 apply to visually graded Southern Pine and Mixed Southern Pine sized 2” to 4” wide and 2” to 4” thick (2x2s through 4x4s) in No.2 and lower grades (No.2DNS, No. 2, No. 2NonDNS, No.3, Stud, Construction, Standard and Utility).

a.       [What follows is only applicable until a week from today.] SBCA is recommending for newly signed Customer Contracts (and to include in bid provisions), where design for a particular project is anticipated to occur BEFORE June 1, 2012 (and deliveries will occur either before or after June 1, 2012):

                                                                           i.      All trusses and components designed and manufactured by Manufacturer shall be in accordance with the Southern Pine Reference Design Values set forth in the Southern Pine Use Guide, 2009 Edition (see http://www.southernpine.com/using-southern-pine_design-values_table1.asp) (the “Current Design Values”). Trusses and components delivered by the Manufacturer will be manufactured in accordance with the approved truss designs, which utilize the “Current Design Values” so long as the “truss shop drawings” are approved by the project Owner/Building Designer/Engineer of Record before June 1, 2012. Otherwise, “Supplement No. 9 Design Values” shall be used and any increased costs for design and manufacturing incurred by the Manufacturer in accordance with these new design values will need to be passed through to the customer and paid for when products are delivered.

b.      SBCA is recommending for current Customer Contracts or for newly signed Customer Contracts, where truss shop drawing approval is anticipated to occur AFTER June 1, 2012 (and where deliveries would likewise occur AFTER June 1, 2012):

                                                                           i.      Given the ALSC Ruling and SPIB’s Supplement No. 9, all trusses and components designed by the Manufacturer are to be in accordance with the “Supplement No. 9 Design Values”.

                                                                         ii.      The manufacturer may want to consider offering the customer a discount or lower price change order for actual decreased manufacturing and design cost (i.e. due to a redesign otherwise being needed of existing truss designs for the project) directly resulting from the continued use of the “Current Design Values”.  As a condition for taking this action, the Manufacturer should require written consent from the project Owner/Building Designer/Engineer of Record to the Manufacturer’s use of the “Current Design Values.”

6.       It is expected that later in 2012, SPIB will propose, and ALSC will likely approve, a reduction in design values for all grades and sizes of Southern Pine, not limited to No. 2 2x4 and lower grades:

a.       SBCA is recommending that Component Manufacturer consider the following or a similar concept as it undertakes bidding and engaging in contracts for new work:

                                                                           i.      Only the “New Design Values” will be used in Manufacturer design drawings submitted, given ALSC has approved the SPIB Supplement No. 9 effective date of June 1, 2012, unless otherwise provided for and approved by the project Owner/Building Designer/Engineer of Record.

                                                                         ii.      All increased costs for design and manufacturing incurred by the Manufacturer (including in the event design value changes cause supply shortages or unavailability of certain lumber grades) will be need to be passed through to the customer and paid for when products are delivered.

                                                                        iii.      Any resulting delays in project construction resulting from issuance of product designs and manufactured products in accordance with the New Design Values shall not be deemed the fault of Manufacturer as these events are unprecedented and completely outside Manufacturer’s control.

7.       There are many reasons why all lumber end-users (i.e. framers, builders, specifiers, etc.)  and component manufacturers ought to consider adopting a reduction in design values of all visually graded Southern Pine either before or shortly after June 1, 2012. The factors that exist include:

a.       The cautionary language quoted above set forth in the ALSC Ruling;

b.      As ALSC has pointed out, the values in the original SPIB proposal submitted to ALSC represent an approximate 25-30% reduction to all grades and sizes of visually graded Southern Pine;

c.       The proposed design value reduction has been posted on the SPIB website since October 6, 2010;

d.      The strong possibility that when ALSC rules on the next SPIB requested reduction in design values, ALSC may not provide a transition period implementation date as they most recently allowed.

8.       Given the recommendation that component manufacturers adopt an across the board reduction of design values in visually graded Southern Pine, SBCA strongly recommends the following or similar language be included in that Manufacturer’s bid and/or Customer Contract:

a.       All manufactured product designs utilize the design values published in Supplement No. 9 to the 2002 Standard Grading Rules for Southern Pine Lumber published by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (“SPIB”) on January 20, 2012 AND the proposed design value reductions for all grades and sizes of Southern Pine as previously proposed by SPIB to the American Lumber Standards Committee and referenced by bulletin dated October 6, 2011.

9.       Also consider customizing and sending out SBCA’s template letter to all your customers, potential customer, specifiers and building officials, disseminating it through every communication channel you can.

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