April 17, 2018

Tall Mass Timber Code Changes Pass First Hurdle

The highly-anticipated tall mass timber building code changes passed their first hurdle earlier Monday with approval by an International Code Council (ICC) Code Change Committee. The 2018 ICC Committee Action Hearings got underway in Columbus, OH on Sunday and will run for eight days. The Hearings bring together code and fire officials, engineers, architects, builders, and other construction professionals as part of the first public step in approving code change proposals for the 2021 set of codes. Key to industry interests are 14 proposals from the ICC Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings that, once officially approved by year-end, would allow mass timber buildings to be constructed up to 18 stories in height. AWC has significant staff in attendance at the Hearings who spoke, as appropriate, in support of the Ad hoc Committee proposals. More details will follow after the Hearings conclude.

A Message from Robert Glowinski

As mentioned above, Monday began debate on changing the nation’s building codes to permit tall, mass timber buildings. Some of us are engaged in the presentation taking place in Columbus, Ohio, and others sit watching a webcast of what is expected to be a lengthy debate. I am reminded of the discussions that took place in the industry just three years ago about whether this was achievable and what would it take. We presented it then as a high risk, high reward opportunity, laying out a strategy that we thought would carry the day. In addition to AWC, the Softwood Lumber Board and U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities eagerly stepped up and joined us in this moonshot, providing additional funding that would allow us to retain the consultants needed, conduct the research and testing required, and encourage the International Code Council to appoint an Ad Hoc Committee to take an in depth look at the issue that we believed collectively held the best promise of success. Monday’s debate considers the bulk, but not all, of the proposals that would bring tall mass timber to fruition. Additional mass timber proposals in the ICC process will continue to be considered through 2019, but yesterday’s approval represents a big step toward final adoption of tall mass buildings in the United States.