Editor's Message: We'll Be Your Voice

SBCA Magazine,

How SBCA’s special-interest advocacy provides real value

Sitting through multiple days, of the ICC’s Committee Action Hearing (CAH) on the 2024 IRC Group B code changes, I couldn’t help but marvel at the effectiveness of special-interest advocacy.

Nobody knows your business better than you do. No one else can fully appreciate the unique challenges you face daily or understand how your company’s goals influence how you interact with your market. When your operations face an external threat or opportunity, you are better equipped than anyone else to talk about how it might harm or benefit your company. In short, you are your own best advocate, better than your customers, suppliers or investors, and certainly better than the government, academic institutions, or the public. You have near-absolute credibility.

If you look at it the other way around, the entity creating the external threat or opportunity typically has a less-than-perfect understanding of what your company does, if it understands it at all. Often, it represents a tangible disruption to how you currently conduct your business. If it’s an opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. But if it’s a threat, you need to stop it in its tracks. The problem is that there are too many of both occurring each year for you to advocate for your company on every single one of them. That’s where special-interest advocacy comes in.

Many trade groups, non-profit organizations, and lobbying firms exist to aggregate the similar interests of individual people or companies. While they don’t have the same credibility of each of the individual entities represented, they still bring a tenable, unified perspective to bear on any issue. This form of advocacy is labelled “special interest” because each of these groups is narrowly focused on the interests of their stakeholders, as opposed to those of the general public.

Returning to the code hearings, almost every proposal prompted the testimony of special-interest groups, who shared how it would be a good or bad addition to the IRC. Over the course of four days, the eleven-member residential committee heard over 300 individual proposals for changes to the 2021 I-codes, ranging from simple word changes and footnote fixes to sprawling proposals seeking to fundamentally change the substance and intent of the IRC. Based on the public reason statements the committee members gave when recommending approval or disapproval of each proposal, it was clear that special-interest advocacy played a huge role in influencing their votes.

Two of the proposed code changes were RB245-22 and RB246-22, which would have altered the required information on truss design drawings (TDDs) contained in R802.10.1, “Truss Design Drawings,” and would have stricken language in R802.10.3 regarding “bracing,” directly referencing BCSI in favor of either a prescriptive approach to truss bracing or a project-specific bracing plan developed by a registered design professional.

These proposals would have had a direct impact on component manufacturers’ design process, and add cost, labor, and time to many truss design projects. They also would have set a bad precedent in the code by removing a direct reference to BCSI, the industry’s seminal document on the handling, bracing, and installing of its products. SBCA, TPI, and NAHB all provided special-interest testimony on why these provisions would be bad for component manufacturers (CMs), truss design software developers, and home builders respectively. For instance, SBCA executive director Jess Lohse provided multiple examples of how the language contained in these proposals would change how CMs operate. Those specific examples helped the committee members appreciate the ways in which the proposed changes would add cost and complexity to projects.

Speaking for yourself in these situations, which is typically called “grassroots” advocacy, is the most effective way to influence decision-makers. But the grassroots approach can be time-consuming and costly, making it an impractical solution for every case. The next best solution is special-interest advocacy, in which SBCA represents your interests on your behalf. This is one of the benefits SBCA provides to all CMs, and underscores why it’s important that every CM be a member of SBCA, so it can provide a truly unified voice when advocating for the industry.

Lastly, in order for SBCA to be a good voice for the industry, its members need to be effective as its eyes and ears. If you see or hear something happening that may have an impact on our industry, please contact us (advocacy@sbcacomponents.com) so we can mobilize an advocacy strategy on the industry’s behalf.

About the Author: Sean D. Shields, Managing Editor