With constant improvements in the technology used to develop building materials and ever-increasing advancements in building design through the use of computers, it is a challenge for building officials to always know

which new fangled products and creative designs actually meet the intent of the building codes. In addition, building departments, like many organizations, incur a certain amount of turnover in personnel. Since it is the duty of the building official to ensure that proper methods and materials are used in all types of construction, there are naturally times when a suspect design or material faces rejection for lack of sufficient substantiation that it will perform as required. Similarly, there are instances when a building official new to a department is not willing to accept a design simply because "we've always done it this way."

So, how does one convince a building official that a material or design does in fact meet the performance requirements of the building code? One tool is the evaluation report. An evaluation report is a document that is published by an evaluation service-an entity tied to its companion model code authority-which verifies that a particular product, assembly, or system complies with the provisions set forth in the cited model code.

Until recently, there were three major regional model code organizations in the United States. Essentially, West of the Mississippi River codes were published by the International Conference of Building Officials, which distributed the Uniform Building Code; in the Northern and mid-Atlantic states East of the Mississippi River the Building Officials and Code Administrators International handled the model code work and published the BOCA National Building Code; and in the Southern states, codes were created by the Southern Building Code Congress International, which published the Standard Building Code-sometimes referred to as the "southern code." Some exceptions to the basic geographic pattern existed-Indiana was an ICBO code state for many years-and a couple of states were subdivided intrastate and used more than one code-Texas, for example-but in general, code adoption followed specific regional patterns.

Each of these regional model code organizations had a subsidiary evaluation service that would create evaluation reports that were used to show the compliance of a product or system with the corresponding regional model code. A manufacturer of a new building sheathing product, for example, that was trying to sell material in Georgia would approach SBCCI Evaluation Services and request an evaluation report. Subsequent to technical review, the evaluation service would issue a report describing various aspects of the manner in which the product needed to be installed to be considered code compliant.

Three in one

In 1994, the International Code Council was created to unify the three regional model code organizations into one entity. After several rounds of drafts and public hearings, the International Building Code was first published in 2000. In 2001, the three regional code organizations ceased to exist and shortly thereafter their subsidiary evaluation services were folded into the ICC. Since early 2003, product evaluations have been issued by the ICC Evaluation Service Inc.

The process of creating a new report is fairly straightforward. If acceptance criteria for a certain product, material, or system exist, the ES technical staff evaluate the submitted subject according to those criteria and determine whether it is compliant. If no acceptance criteria for that particular product, material, or system exist, the ES staff and the applicant can work together to develop them. Once developed by staff and the applicant, the acceptance criteria are subjected to ICC-ES Evaluation Committee review and are discussed at a public hearing prior to final approval.

Verifying that a product, material, or system satisfies the acceptance criteria may require considerable inspection and evaluation by ES staff and often requires the incorporation of a third party inspection process, as well. Quality control protocols are evaluated by ES staff to ensure that product consistency is maintained. Manufacturing processes are subject to evaluation and field inspection by ES recognized laboratories and inspection services to ensure that the processes are carefully quality controlled. Producers are also subject to periodic inspection to verify that established standards are maintained. As a result of the evaluation process, changes in how the subject product, material, or system is produced may be necessary so that it does comply with the code before the report is issued.

Successfully converting an existing evaluation report issued previously by one of the predecessor evaluation services into an ICC-ES report is a shorter process during which the ES staff determines whether the acceptance criteria for the old report are sufficient to demonstrate that the subject meets the provisions of the applicable International Code, as well as previously cited codes. If there are substantive technical changes that must be made to the report to demonstrate code compliance, then a new evaluation report must be applied for.

The Gypsum Association recently received notice that the ICC Evaluation Service has approved two evaluation reports held by the association. These reports supercede two reports that had originally been issued by ICBO Evaluation Services. The GA does not produce any building products, therefore these reports address uses of generic gypsum board products in a wide number of common applications.

These documents serve the dual purposes of documenting to building departments that the specified systems described are code compliant, and also provide descriptions of approved generic systems to designers and contractors who might be seeking an approved gypsum board system for a particular application.

Two bit

The first of the two GA evaluation reports, titled "ESR-1046, Gypsum Board Interior and Exterior Applications," covers specific applications of gypsum board for both interior and exterior surfaces that comply with provisions found in the 2000 International Building Code, the 2000 International Residential Code, the 2002 Accumulative Supplement to the International Codes, and the 1997 Uniform Building Code. The specific products covered by this report are water-resistant gypsum backing board, gypsum wallboard, exterior gypsum soffit board, and gypsum sheathing board.

ESR-1046 gives brief descriptions for the proper installation of the above listed product types in fire-resistance rated assemblies, walls and ceilings in shower and bath areas, exterior ceiling surfaces, exterior wall applications, roof assembly applications, thermal barriers, ceiling diaphragms, and shear walls. In each of these categories, references are made to code-recognized standards that apply to the particular product type or installation method.

For instance, fire-rated assemblies must comply with Chapter 7 of the IBC or UBC, Section R321 of the IRC, the 17th edition of the the association's "GA-600-03, Fire Resistance Design Manual," or other current ICC-ES evaluation reports. Where the different cited codes vary in their requirements, the report provides direction on what is necessary to comply with each of the specific codes.

The second GA evaluation report, titled "ESR-1338, Gypsum Wall and Ceiling Assemblies," covers specific applications of gypsum board for both load-bearing and non-load-bearing fire-resistance-rated wall, floor-ceiling and roof-ceiling assemblies. The described assemblies comply with provisions found in the 2000 International Building Code, the 2000 International Residential Code, the 2002 Accumulative Supplement to the International Codes, and the 1997 Uniform Building Code. The specific products covered by this report are water-resistant gypsum backing board, gypsum wallboard, exterior gypsum soffit board, gypsum sheathing board, gypsum backing board and core board, and gypsum base for veneer plasters.

ESR-1338 provides detailed installation requirements for seven generic fire-resistance-rated assemblies including: a two-hour gypsum board solid partition for shaft enclosures; a one-hour gypsum board partition with wood framing; a one-hour gypsum board staggered-stud bearing partition; a one-hour gypsum board floor-ceiling or roof-ceiling assembly with wood framing; a one-hour gypsum board assembly with steel framing; a two-hour gypsum board floor-ceiling assembly; and a two-hour gypsum board bearing wall with a minimum sound transmission class 50 sound rating.

Also included in this report are provisions for control joints, alternate suspended ceiling construction, alternate gypsum board fasteners, joint treatment, and fire-resistance-rated and sound control systems. Additional information is provided to meet allowable partition heights for gypsum board or gypsum veneer base, and lath and plaster.

Contractors and design professionals alike will find ESR-1338 particularly useful when trying to locate a code-compliant "generic" design for a fire-resistance-rated assembly. Not only are the seven configurations listed above covered but a reference to all the generic designs found in the association's 17th edition of "GA-600-03, Fire Resistance Design Manual" is included in the report, as well.

Evaluation reports are useful tools that often provide answers to questions about the ability of integrating a specific material or system into code-compliant construction. Having a bit of knowledge about the specific information contained in individual evaluation reports will always prove beneficial when you are trying to convince an adamant building code official that a product has been installed correctly or that the product is correct for the intended use. Copies can be obtained of all current evaluation reports issued by ICC-ES from its Web site www.icc-es.org. Gypsum Association-sponsored evaluation reports may be obtained from www.gypsum.org.