By Buddy Showalter, P.E., American Wood Council
Code officials play a fundamental role in ensuring that all buildings within their jurisdiction are constructed in accordance with provisions of the governing building code. Ensuring compliance with modern building codes is essential to managing safety and protecting against potential hazards caused by fire, high wind, seismic or snow events.
In today’s environment, code officials are extremely busy—from learning, monitoring and enforcing multiple codes; fielding technical questions from architects, engineers, builders, owners and developers; documenting official records throughout the entire construction process; and even investigating building failures.
To make sure the code administration and enforcement community is among the first to hear about the latest building code related wood design and construction information, the American Wood Council (AWC) developed and launched the Code Official Connections program (www.awc.org/codeconnections). Participants receive instant access to building code-referenced AWC standards and resources, as well as technical support to assist in the evaluation of design, review of plans and inspection of wood buildings.
The program offers code officials several benefits, including WoodWorks Design Office software—the complete electronic tool for wood building designers—along with one free downloadable electronic standard, discounts on AWC print publications, and complimentary continuing education units and exam preparation resources. Additionally, AWC’s biweekly newsletter for the code enforcement community, WoodPost, keeps members up to date on wood-related code issues, International Code Council (ICC) code activities, upcoming educational opportunities, new publications, tools and more.
Many jurisdictions’ training budgets are extremely limited, and this program is designed to help keep everyone as up to date as possible. AWC makes that easy by offering free wood design and use education to Code Official Connections participants. Through the program, AWC provides:
- Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as part of the International Code Council (ICC) Education Preferred Provider Program;
- Professional Development Hours (PDHs) as part of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) Diamond Review Program; and
- Health, Safety and Welfare Learning Units (LUs) as part of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education System.
AWC education for code officials becomes even more important beginning this year, as 40 percent of the CEUs required by ICC for certification renewal must now be earned from ICC or an ICC Preferred Provider. That increases to 50 percent beginning July 1, 2016.
AWC encourages registration for the Code Official Connections program from the following:
- Individuals who administer or enforce codes as inspectors, plans examiners, permit technicians or Building Officials and are directly employed by a governmental organization;
- Individuals who are not employees of a governmental authority but work on behalf of a governmental organization serving as a contract Building Official, plans examiner or inspector; or
- Service providers that conduct International Residential Code or International Building Code mandated inspections or plan review as a locally-approved third-party provider.
In addition to the Code Official Connections program, AWC also makes numerous other resources available to building officials to make their jobs easier. These include the Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide and comprehensive Code Conforming Wood Design guide, which compile applicable code provisions into one user-friendly website, essentially creating a building code encyclopedia on all things wood. Moreover, AWC has also created three calculator applications to streamline the process of ensuring new and existing buildings comply with the latest building codes, including the Span Calculator, Connection Calculator and Energy UA Calculator. These easy-to-use tools are readily accessible from any computer, tablet or mobile device, helping to quickly assist users whether they’re in the office, on the road or at a job site.
Here’s what one code official from Spotsylvania County, Va. had to say about AWC resources:
”Your website and publications have been a useful source of good information that I have shared with builders and fellow plans reviewers.”
In a time when the importance of construction safety is reaching a fever pitch, it remains critical for code officials to be informed and vigilant about current building codes and standards. Using the Code Connections Program from AWC is one way that those ensuring building safety have the latest and most update information available.
John “Buddy” Showalter, P.E., is the Vice President of Technology Transfer at the American Wood Council (AWC), which represents the interests of the North American wood products industry that provides approximately 400,000 men and women in the United States with family-wage jobs. AWC works to assure the broad regulatory and market acceptance of wood products by developing design tools and guidelines for wood construction, while advocating for balanced public policies affecting the use and manufacture of wood products.