July 16, 2010 | Dear Members and Industry:

Having now had some time to regroup after the IRC and IBC code hearings held in Dallas, Texas in May, I am going to share with you some thoughts on code development that affect each of us, whether we are builders, suppliers, or manufacturers.

One of the core reasons for the formation of NADRA in 2005 was to provide a voice for our industry. Since that time we have worked diligently to learn the ropes of the code development process, to participate in the making and changing of code for the benefit of our industry, and to form industry wide relationships and make alliances where possible.

While the term ”code development” has the power to make anyone start thinking about taking a nap, it is crucial that the deck and railing industry not nod-off. Instead, we must be thinking and planning for the future of our industry as relates to code.

Until 2003, the decks were given only cursory attention in the code. Largely due to the fact that decks are exterior structures and often separate from the house, they were not considered to be within the purview of the code. That perspective has now changed, and there have been many changes that affect decks entered into building code. Coverage of decks in building code is far from complete; however, there are already sections of code that are difficult to interpret and enforce on the job site.

The code process is as political as any existing governmental process. Every few years a new version of building code is issued. Building code is developed in cycles that provide a platform for anyone to submit changes to the code. In attendance at hearings are building officials, members of industry, engineers, university professors, government
officials, members of coalitions, and occasionally consumers. That’s a lot of people with a lot of different concerns and agendas—all pushing for changes to the code.

NADRA was there a couple of years ago when the assembly voted in the sorely needed guard code. NADRA was a voting member of the Climbable Guards Study Group of the CTC (ICC Code Technology Committee) during its development. In the last code cycle, NADRA successfully spearheaded an effort to keep a problematic provision from becoming part of the IRC by bringing together several key players in the code arena to testify against it. We have also supported sister organizations within our industry with testimony at code hearings.

Most recently NADRA tried to remove a section of code that should never have made it into the IRC in the first place. (I am refering to IRC Section 502.2.2.3 and its related Figure, which insinuates that a seismic device should be used in all ledger attachments.) However, it is much easier to write code with a pen than with an eraser, and we were unsuccessful. In the process we learned that there are many who agree with our position. If we cannot remove this section, at this point in time, then we can at least provide insight to our members and the industry on how to work with code officials on proper interpretation of the section, and to work with ICC to develop some guidance on its application in the field.

NADRA has made great strides since we first began. In 2009 we were invited by ICC to co-brand a book on the 2009 deck code. The book is entitled “Deck Construction – Based on the 2009 International Residential Code” and is written by Glenn Mathewson, a former deck builder and code official out of Colorado. Not only is the NADRA logo side by side with the ICC logo on the cover of this book, but included in the book is NADRA’s deck evaluation checklist. That NADRA, at its fairly young age, had done enough to grab the attention of the ICC speaks volumes as to what we could achieve with more support from the industry we serve.

In order to continue climbing up this hill, NADRA needs involvement from every sector of the industry. From the single-crew builder to the lumberyard, supplier, to the small widget maker, all the way to the giant manufacturer, if the industry believes in what NADRA is doing, then it must step up and support it with both monetary and time resources. We have been doing this for over four years on an expenses-only budget. This means that volunteers have been attending code meetings and doing the hours and hours of leg work required. Our industry needs and deserves more attention than can be reasonably provided for on a volunteer basis.

While sectors of our industry are busy fighting each other for market share, the industry as a whole is losing ground to other forms of backyard living that are less regulated and less expensive than deck installation. In the past, deck builders could make a nice living by just offering decks. Now, in order to be competitive and make a sale, a deck builder had better be able to offer hardscape options as well. Concrete, pavers and rock are easy alternatives – more economical, and very minimal code requirements.

NADRA has worked to create relationships with every sector of our industry so that we can come together on issues that affect our industry. The industry needs NADRA to provide not only a builder perspective but also to provide an industry voice to the code development process. Each sector of the industry will always have its own needs. However, the needs of the industry as a whole must also be addressed. That is NADRA’s job – to work for the growth and sustenance of the industry, as a whole.

If we want to ride out the current economic state and continue to bring innovative and imaginative decking choices to the consumer, we better keep abreast of code development and help shape it to benefit the deck and railing industry as a whole. If we sit back in our rocking chairs and let it happen, we will find ourselves rocking away on patios.

I urge you to contact NADRA and do your part to ensure that the industry, in which you make your living in, continues to thrive and grow.

Diana M. Hanson
NADRA Codes and Standards Committee Chairman