The National Association of Home Builders has filed an appeal to the ICC to set aside code changes mandating fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes constructed under the 2009 International Residential Code, citing a failure of the ICC to provide a fair and open voting process at its final action hearings in September.
In a letter submitted on Oct. 30, NAHB asked the
ICC to “take immediate action to eliminate the influence of third-party funding
in the voting process” and “undertake corrective action(s) ... by restoring the
principle of balance of interest in the selection of Governmental Member Voting
A letter from the Washington Association of Building
Officials noted that “special interests dictated the outcome of the code
changes,” which will allow sprinkler manufacturers and installers “to reap
millions, if not billions, of dollars in profits.”
After calling for an independent audit of the irregularities
they identified in their letter, the Washington
state building officials concluded that, “We believe the integrity of the ICC
is at stake.”
Fire sprinkler advocates created a coalition to push
for mandating sprinkler requirements. Their multimillion-dollar campaign
included covering travel expenses for fire fighters and other supporters to
attend the hearings and vote in favor of sprinkler mandates.
Taking advantage of ICC provisions that allow multiple
governmental members from any jurisdiction, fire departments across the country
were able to join and designate a large roster of new voters. With their travel
expenses paid, these first-time voters were able to overwhelm the process and
control the voting.
NAHB did help state and local homebuilders associations
provide funding to defray the travel expenses of building officials whose
governmental budgets did not make any allowance for them to attend the code
hearings. However, these officials came to participate in the entire hearings,
not just to vote and testify on the fire sprinkler issue, and the travel grants
were provided to help ensure balance in the hearings in the face of the
well-funded pro-sprinkler coalition.
“We believe in a fair and open building code development
process that provides for balance of interests in the voting,” said NAHB
Construction, Codes and Standards Committee Chairman James Anderson. “NAHB
members have long supported the ICC’s efforts to administer a consensus process
that allows voices to be heard from everyone who has a legitimate interest in
public health and safety and how it plays out in the construction of new homes.
That means that product manufacturers, federal regulators, local building
inspectors, health and safety advocates, and fire officials all deserve an
equal hearing. Home builders do, as well.”
Anderson said that others are encouraged to voice their
concerns to the ICC. The ICC has not yet set a date for the appeal hearing.
NAHB Contests Fire Sprinklers Vote
November 18, 2008