‘The Code, and the Code, and the Code!’

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by Matt Dobson

The Foundation for the Vinyl Siding Industry’s Growth Over the Last 20 Years – and Into the Future

As an old Army reservist guy, I’m a sucker for military history – it really tugs at the old heartstrings. Recently, as I was preparing to write this post, I came across General Douglas MacArthur’s last speech at West Point to the Corps of Cadets in 1962. I am still moved by the iconic last words of his address:

“Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.”

The timing of this heartfelt reflection could not have been any better as I was thinking of ways to describe the impact of the Vinyl Siding Institute’s (VSI) Code Development Work Group (CDWG) on the extraordinary growth of our industry. Before I stumbled upon MacArthur’s speech on YouTube, I kept saying the words over and over as I was writing – the Code, and the Code, and the Code.

I recall the early years, from 2004-10 when the CDWG reeled in members to buy into code reform and development to drive our industry forward. During this time, and in the ensuing years of that first decade, we were also defending against attacks from the masonry industry; and took on the heated (pun intended) fire issue debates spurred by the sprinkler industry that was fighting to bring in their own codes. We were on the defensive during those first 10 years, and I’m proud to say that we truly held our own against stiff resistance.

That baseline of ASTM standards that we established (taking a scientific approach) during that time made us successful in defending these attacks. We gained more acceptance for our products because we met the codes – especially since they were performing at a higher level. Ultimately, these standards helped us elevate our game to a proactive state of collaboration, using the codes to help our industry. Over the last handful of years, VSI’s code development initiatives and efforts have been on the offensive (continuing with our scientific approach), submitting more code change proposals that address proper installation and wind resistance than we’ve ever presented.

Ultimately, these standards helped us elevate our game to a proactive state of collaboration, using the codes to help our industry.

After hurricanes, we conducted field analyses using the technical data and scientific approach to update codes. And we developed stronger relationships with the Western Fire Center Inc (by having them test our materials) as well as the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to gain support for and collaboration on our code work.

With these entrenched partnerships and a proven track record for code development that equates to quality performance, VSI is now focusing on small installation scenarios (particularly those that should be using starter strip or utility trim) that will improve product performance, especially in high wind areas. For the upcoming International Code Council (ICC) Committee Action Hearings (Group B) in Rochester, NY, March 28–April 4, the group has prepared several code change proposals focused on soffit, fascia, utility trim and starter strip.

  • FS1: This code change proposal is intended to improve the wind performance of soffits and fascia by adding installation requirements to the International Building Code (IBC).
  • FS 6, FS11, RB230, RB232: This addition brings in critical installation elements for vinyl siding, insulated vinyl siding and polypropylene siding that are sometimes ignored by installers relating to starter strips and utility trims for the IBC and International Residential Code (IRC).
  • RB 17: This code change is intended to enhance the use of the code to help the home building industry by enforcing a closer look at inspections for our products. This code should provide more detailed steps on inspection areas other than inspecting framing and masonry. The proposal for this code change contains the provision from the Florida Building Code that has been used at least in part for several cycles and would be helpful to include in the IRC.
  • RB 231: This amendment speaks to an unfair requirement for polypropylene siding. Currently, polypropylene siding is the only cladding in the IRC that requires an ASTM E84 test respective to specific Fire Separation Distance areas. This requirement is already covered in other ASTM standards. To help the committee understand the fire properties of polypropylene siding better, VSI conducted a series of tests at the Western Fire Center that provide good fire safe characteristic insights by using ASTM E2707 Standard Test Method for Determining Fire Penetration of Exterior Wall Assemblies Using a Direct Flame Impingement Exposure and an exposed wall to this test.

VSI also made code change proposals for RB 236 (soffit), RB 237 (soffit & fascia) and RB 238 (aluminum soffit). Part of these code changes covers metal and not polymeric products. But many of our members make metal products, and the proposed amendments mirror those we developed for the polymeric product codes.

Looking Ahead

VSI members don’t have to wait until my retirement speech – many years from now – to hear me recite these “MacArthur-esque” words when describing what the VSI’s code work has meant to me and our industry. In fact, you may have heard me preaching these words verbatim over the years at our annual meetings and other industry events.

It never gets old when you think of all we have accomplished together and the enormous potential for the future of vinyl siding. Just remember – The Code, and the Code, and the Code!

For questions or more information on our code change proposals and other work, contact me at mdobson@polymericexteriors.fahlgrendigital.com.