Turning Threats into Opportunities

SBCA Magazine,

The building code process can pay dividends if you’re proactive

“When changes to the building code are proposed, it’s usually by someone just looking to solve a problem they are repeatedly experiencing in the construction process,” says Howard Gauger, engineering department manager for Carpenter Contractors of America (CCA). “More often than not, they’re willing to work with others to find a solution that is a win for everyone.”

Howard’s point is that the model code development and code adoption processes are open to all stakeholders, but often the problem is that those participating in it aren’t always aware of how changes will affect everyone engaged in construction. “That’s why it’s so important for our industry, and individual component manufacturers (CMs), to be involved in the process and ensure our perspective and interests are on their radar,” says Howard.

How Building Code Threats Create Opportunities

Howard Gauger, CCA;
Jay Jones, TPI
Jess Lohse, SBCA

Jay Jones, executive director of the Truss Plate Institute (TPI), says there are many benefits to being proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to code change proposals. “For a start, by building relationships and coalitions early, you avoid creating adversarial relationships. We are all engaged in the same activity of building structures, and there’s a huge advantage to working together to find win-win solutions,” he says.

“Many times, our industry may be aware of an easy solution to a problem and if we’re not there talking with those seeking a solution, we miss out,” says Howard. To that end, both Jay and Howard encourage every CM to get engaged in their local code development process as soon as possible. Beyond the building codes themselves, building relationships within these groups is a good way to become a resource for inspectors and code officials when day-to-day enforcement questions arise. “When they come to me, not only am I able to, many times, lead them to a win-win solution, but I also gain intelligence on the framing issues that are important to the inspectors in my market,” says Howard.

While both Jay and Howard agree the involvement of SBCA and TPI at the national level in model code development is beneficial to the industry, it’s even more important CMs get engaged at the local level to identify potentially dangerous precedent-setting enforcement issues or unfavorable code amendments, such as building labeling or bans on truss framing. “You won’t always win every battle in the field, but bringing attention to these issues as they come up will eventually help our industry win the war when it comes to preserving favorable market conditions for the truss industry,” says Jay.

Howard emphasizes you don’t need to have a technical background to be effective in the process, saying, “Just show up, listen to the issues, and speak up when you hear something that you think may be detrimental to your business. Over time, you’ll get to know the people and issues and you can expand on the areas you weigh in on. It’s not hard, it just takes time.”