Associations and the Code

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November 30, 2010 | When I was a carpenter and a builder, I never joined an industry association. I didn’t see what was in it for me. That was taking the short view. I didn’t realize that associations lobby on industry-wide issues such as codes. In fact, I didn’t know how codes were written. If I had thought about it, I’d have guessed that some think tank of structural engineers sat around developing minimum standards based on a reasonable expectation of building performance.

Well, it turns out that’s not quite right. Code writing is a political process as much as a technical one. Code changes can be suggested by anyone, from individuals to corporations. My crazy Uncle Lou could suggest a code change. Properly submitted code proposals are vetted by a committee. The survivors are voted up or down at the International Code Council’s annual meetings. The only people who get to vote on whether changes make it into the IRC are governmental members of the ICC — mostly code officials.

The people most affected by the code — you — don’t get a vote. Anyone can comment on proposed changes before the final vote, but what deck builder has the time to keep abreast of proposed changes to the code and to write a letter or comment at the annual ICC meeting? I never did. Nor did I realize I could. Even so, considering the commenter could be Uncle Lou, the view of one individual probably shouldn’t carry a lot of weight. But associations? If I were a voting ICC member, I’d give more time and credence to associations than to the concerns of an individual.

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