(First in a 2-Part Blog Series)
Over the past couple of years, we’ve written numerous blog posts about the Vinyl Siding Institute’s (VSI’s) Product Certification Program and Code Development Work Group (CDWG), and rightfully so. It’s been an incredible journey of industry growth, maturity and success as we celebrate the Product Certification Program’s 25th anniversary.
These blog posts have emphasized the many watershed achievements that include the ISO/IEC 17065 accredited program (with certification granted by Intertek as the Certification Body); strong code cycles resulting in greater recognition of VSI members’ products and their high standards that equal quality performance and smart compliance; and the VSI program deliverables known as PCLs and PERs.
This two-part blog series is about PCLs and PERs and what they mean for the vinyl siding industry.
These two documents are essential for code compliance and strongly reflect a vinyl siding industry that takes standards and quality very seriously – so much so that they wanted to be a player in the code compliance industry. It was this determination that explains why vinyl siding has been North America’s choice over the past several decades.
The Case for Compliance Autonomy
According to Sara Krompholz, VSI’s Senior Director, Technical and Certification, some companies have been involved for decades, while VSI is relatively new to the compliance authority game.
“When I started in 2008, there was a gold standard - ICC - ES (International Code Council’s Evaluation Services),” Sara explained. They were the top dogs. If you wanted a code report, that’s where you went. They were like the Nielsen ratings for building codes. The good news was that you knew where to go. The bad news was that some people did not like going to one source or being forced to go one path, especially since there was ‘a long line’ and a long wait to get your code deliverables. It was frustrating.”
Sara explained that other companies and entities saw an opportunity to gain the necessary accreditation(s) and offer their own code evaluation services.
“One was Architectural Testing, now Intertek (known as ATI back then),” she said. “They came out with their own listing and code compliance report options to give an alternative path for those who did not want to go through ICC-ES. Over time, the other entities were established, and code officials learned that other quality reports and listings were out there that covered all the foundational requirements.
"Now there are several paths to obtaining certification and code-compliant deliverables. Options are good."
In 2019, VSI migrated their product certification program to a more robust foundation.
“It was our entry into the code compliance arena,” Sara noted. “We are now on the same playing field. Why is this so important to VSI? Because our members would have to go out to one of these entities or Intertek. It became cost-prohibitive and complex, especially when different entities carried out different sets of code compliance rules and labeling requirements. VSI could be a member-driven, one-stop-shop with all our industry’s product offerings.”
There were two initiatives that VSI pursued that enabled them to achieve the ISO/IEC 17065 accredited program and hence, the ability to offer PCLs and PERs. First, Sara and the VSI team conducted what she calls a lot of “re-con,” where they picked the brains of different code officials through formal surveys to find out if they were receptive to other compliance entities.
“We showed them some samples of our work and got positive feedback from the officials and their input on the surveys,” Sara explained. “Over 70 different code officials were surveyed. Their feedback confirmed that we were on the right track to provide quality deliverables that would be accepted in the field.”
Second, VSI joined forces with Intertek on a new level to become the ISO/IEC-17065-certified entity that serves VSI. “VSI could not have pursued this without Intertek,” she said. “This was built on a trusted relationship, and we rely on their certification and verification.”
Available since August 2021, the PCLs and PERs offered through the VSI program are also listed on Intertek’s public directory.
“We’re now coming to building official events with both barrels loaded,” Sara beamed proudly. “We have a full plate of offerings, and we’re getting good acceptance and positive dialogues. And our members have reported no issues with these items. Some of our members still hold other code reports for their products, but we expect conversions and new PERs as this program grows and evolves. We have done so much to ensure the success and acceptance of these deliverables in the field.”
Editor’s note: (Next month, in Part 2 of this blog series, we will discuss the PCLs and PERs in action, and while PCLs are only mandatory, PERs are a must).
Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.