How Codes and Code Officials Will Help Our Industry

by Matt Dobson

The International Code Council (ICC) code hearings process for the development of the 2024 I-codes is complete, and the Vinyl Siding Institute’s (VSI) Code Development Work Group (CDWG) feels accomplished with proactive progress made over the last year in North America.

This this was by far the most proactive code cycle for VSI!

We took steps with the codes that will help improve product performance in the field which will ultimately improve product and industry perception. We took positive, incremental steps to enforce the standardization of important installation practices that will significantly benefit our industry. And we finished a strong code cycle for the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC), ICC Codes and Florida Building Codes (FBC).

The long list of big wins for VSI includes:

  • Further recognition of insulated siding as a continuous insulation, as applied with vapor retarders in Northern climates
  • Supported introduction of our rain screening idea to code
  • Addition of clearance requirements for polymeric cladding to reduce moisture and heat performance issues
  • Clean-up of product certification language, as well as insulated vinyl siding and polypropylene siding installation language
  • Removal of redundant installation provisions
  • Co-sponsored with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the addition of starter strip and utility trim requirements for vinyl and insulated vinyl siding; and aluminum soffit installation requirements
  • Supported improved language for product use with foam sheathing
  • Successful introduction of exterior soffit definition, including delineation from the wall covering definition
  • Co-sponsored with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) upgrades to the soffit section, including the addition of fascia installation requirements
  • Improved remodeling annex to provide a better understanding of the need to use a “nailable” substrate

A Few More Hurdles Ahead

It wasn’t a “perfect cycle,” as we fell short on a few key items, including the addition of starter strip and utility trim to the International Building Code (IBC), and the removal of the E84 modified test requirement in high-density settings for polypropylene siding in both the IBC and the International Residential Code (IRC).

But leave no doubt that VSI’s CDWG made critical traction in this cycle to address many issues across North America on high-wind performance and proper installation. The I-codes are adopted by every state in the country, so the strides we made in this cycle – years in the making – will have significant long-term impacts.

About five to six years ago, we started analyzing product performance after hurricanes which helped us identify items missed consistently on installations and noted that code improvements could help our industry by regulating proper installation. We also tried to harmonize how products are approved in the U.S. and Canada by recognizing the same ASTM standards. Our efforts here could lead to the recognition of VSI’s product certification program by Canada, thanks to the support of our program administrator, Intertek. The NBCC published this year and the 2024 I-Codes 2024 and 2023 Florida Building Codes will be published in 2023.

Adding hurricane field analysis to VSI’s work has proven to be effective rather than having outside stakeholders trying to influence how our industry is regulated. These code improvements further ensure longtime performance in the field while reducing potential product failure by ensuring correct installation.

And so, we had a 90% success rate, which, in the world of code cycle deliberations, is the equivalent of your favorite college football team making it to the college football playoffs.


Next Steps

We will continue to work on those items that made it to the goal line but didn’t quite “break the plane” – like fire testing in polypropylene siding (RB231). For higher density buildings, polypropylene siding is limited unless it can pass the E-84 Modified Test Requirement. We maintain that this test requirement is not a fair treatment of the product. VSI’s Technical Committee will look at this issue to see how it should be considered moving forward. The ICC code development process is very deliberate and incremental, a process that we respect and appreciate.

VSI has been a leader in incorporating soffits and fascia into the codes, along with FEMA, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) and IBHS. These specific products, including the building eaves, have not been regulated in the past, leading to soffit and fascia failures during high-wind events. In many cases, the soffits were not fastened, resulting in negative perceptions about our siding and soffit.

The FBC is near completion thanks to VSI consultant and architect Fernando Pages Ruiz’s representation of VSI in that process. VSI’s CDWG group continues to monitor and participate in issue forums that impact the industry, with the intention of steering these efforts toward facts and science-based reasoning. A key example is a new wildfire standard resiliency or building “hardening” being developed and proposed hail research on cladding.

We are preparing an analysis of Hurricane Ian – and that report is expected to be out by early next year. Initial findings showed that homes were mostly intact with occasional moderate cladding failures. Changes to the code will take care of most cladding, soffit and fascia issues recently found during Ian.

Special thanks to VSI’s Rob Balfanz and VSI members Andy Breuer and John Lapp for their work on the hurricane analysis conducted on October 10 and 11. And thanks to the Code Development Work Group for a highly successful cycle.