VSI Code Development Work Group Sets Industry Up for Future Success

by Matt Dobson

The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) Code Development Work Group (CDWG) conducted a highly productive meeting in early November. We are well-prepared for the subsequent updating cycle on 2027 I-codes and Florida codes that will begin in 2024.

We will spend 2024, 2025 and half of 2026 working on these code updates while also looking longer term to refine the National Building Code of Canada – a much longer process.

Here are three key objectives that the CDWG looks to achieve in this upcoming cycle:

  • Adding a new category – backed siding. This board product is similar to insulated vinyl siding but without the tested R-value. It is a more rigid board product compliant with the ASTM D7445-24. We are committed to adding backed siding starting with the International Building Code in 2024 and the International Residential Code and Florida Codes in 2025.
  • Continued incremental changes based on field analysis conducted after hurricanes. Much of the CDWG’s focus has been dedicated to continuous improvement on the code provisions based on field analysis after hurricanes in Florida, with the approach of having the codes help enforce already established installation practices that are sometimes ignored and cause installation issues.
  • Emphasis on incorporating defensible space for safer structures in the International Fire Code and the Urban Wildland Interface Code (UWIC). The intent is to identify combustible ground cover materials like mulch (too close to the house) as the ignition source issue for potential building fires. We want to steer this discussion away from vinyl siding and other siding as they are not the ignition source – when it’s the outside materials – and focus on moving these ground materials further away from the house. We are also concerned about the potential overreaching changes to fire safety codes (including additional fire safety testing) that could add more cost and negatively impact housing affordability without having any meaningful impact on fire safety. We are monitoring fire safety initiatives that may not be necessary as the existing code already does a great job of creating fire-safe homes. VSI has conducted significant testing to look at fire safety. The group is looking to regulate combustible materials like mulch, typical ignition points for starting fires. We’ve worked with fire safety groups on this previously.

The CDWG is one of the longest-standing work groups that VSI has had in place. They started about 20 years ago by introducing products into the building codes with solid leadership from Chair Neil Sexton of CertainTeed LLC. Since then, the group has been working on making building codes that enforce proper critical installation practices which, in turn, lead to better product performance and building durability and resiliency.

The workgroup has been proactive on how to use the codes in a way that ultimately helps the consumer. We take incremental steps with the code and as a result, the code is mature with our product. Key installation elements are included, such as critical points like starter strips and the use of utility trim under windows and at the top of the walls under eaves. The work group was also primarily responsible for adding requirements for soffit and eave construction, working in cooperation with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) on this critical issue.

We are also exploring ways the VSI Product Certification Program can work with the CDWG to create more synergy. The Product Certification Program is primarily a code-compliance process so we believe we can leverage this program’s abilities more to enhance our code work.

When we look back at the fruits of our labor from the last cycle in which the codes were revised to utilize VSI-published information, we take stock in knowing that the amended codes are instructing professionals on how to build homes right.

These incremental code improvements have been focused on creating more sustainable, resilient and durable structures that benefit the consumers.