House Party Fail - Part 2
There’s Madness Behind This Method
I recently contacted the ICC to ask what purpose limiting minimum house size serves. I also asked what, if any, testing has been done to show that the limits achieve their intended purpose. Steve Daggers of the ’s public relations team had this to say, “The specific purpose of the International Residential Code is to establish minimum requirements to safeguard the public’s safety through affordability, structural strength, means of egress (exit) facilities, , sanitation, light and ventilation, energy conservation and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to built environment”. “Based on building science, technical knowledge, and lessons learned from experience, the purpose of a building code is to establish minimum requirements necessary to provide safety, guard public health and reduce property losses”. ** (Steve’s full response can be found below).
The regulations governing the size of America’s homes are, reportedly, intended to protect us from the untold dangers of small houses. We’re told they exist to guard public safety and provide affordability and efficiency. These longstanding claims are, allegedly, based on building science and lessons learned from experience.
Without more substantive detail, it’s hard to know what this really means. The most independent studies clearly show that smaller houses are actually much safer, more efficient, healthier and more affordable than their larger correlate. And the collective experience of hundreds of folks whodesign, build and inhabit houses of just 50 to 500 square feet suggests the same.
it comes to surviving a fire, egress is key. The closer you are to a
good exit the greater your chance of making it out of a burning building
alive will be. In the event of a fire, you’re more likely to make it
out of a smoldering cottage, where windows and doors are never far from
reach, than out of a smoldering Hearst Castle or high rise.
Beyond proximity (and ensuring a door or window will actually open during a fire), an exit’s size is also clearly important. Until new testing proves otherwise, the tried and true rules pertaining to safe emergency egress (ANSI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), should be adhered to. But our current building codes mandate egress (window, door, hallway and stairway sizes) more than twice ANSI/NFPA minimum recommendations. The variations seem to be as unsubstantiated as they are arbitrary (see ANSI A119.5 and NFPA 1192 minimums vs. the International Code Council’s 310.6.2, 310.6.2&3, 310.6.1, 310.1.1, 310.1.2 &3, 311.4.2).
earthquake-related deaths are caused by the collapse of structures, and
large buildings tend to fall more often and harder than small ones. An
article on Haiti’s 2010 earthquake published by Incorporated Research
Institutions on Seismology and The University of Portland reports that,
the death toll in Haiti would have been higher if the structures there
hadn’t been so small. ***
Another study by The World Bank and The New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) has shown that larger buildings are more easily toppled by a quake while “Buildings that are not too heavy, modestly proportioned, with good connections and properly attached to their foundations will remain”.
In addition, with the relative capacity to resist the shear forces posed by earthquakes, small buildings are also more resilient to the shear forces of hurricanes and other strong winds… as long as they’re fastened to the ground, of course.
** Hello Jay,
Here are our responses, in easy to understand language not technical terms.Thanks for your inquiry.What's the stated purpose of these codes? The International Codes, or I-Codes, published by the International Code Council provide minimum safeguards for people at home, at school and in the workplace. The International Council is a member-focused association dedicated to the development of codes and standards used by the building industry to provide safe, sustainable, and affordable structures. The I-Codes are a complete set of comprehensive, coordinated building safety, fire prevention and energy-efficient codes. Building codes benefit public safety and support the construction industry’s need for one set of codes without regional limitations.The specific purpose of the International Residential Code is to establish minimum equirements to safeguard the public’s safety through affordability, structural strength, means of egress (exit) facilities, stability, sanitation, light and ventilation, energy conservation and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment. The International Residential Code provides safety to firefighters and emergency responders during emergency operations. The
International Residential Code is in use or adopted in 49 states at the state or local level, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Legislative bodies are not obligated to adopt model building safety or fire prevention codes, and may write their own code or portions of a code. A model code has no legal standing until it is adopted as law by a legislative body (state legislature, county board, city council, etc.). When adopted as law, all owners of property within the boundaries of the adopting jurisdiction are required to comply with the referred codes. Because codes are updated every three years, existing structures usually are required
What, if any, testing has been done to show that the codes achieve their intended goal? Based on building science, technical knowledge, and lessons learned from experience, the purpose of a building code is to establish minimum requirements necessary to provide safety, guard public health and reduce property losses. Model building codes provide protection from man-made and natural disasters. Safe buildings are achieved through proper design and construction practices in concert with a code administration program that ensures compliance. Model codes actually keep construction
costs down by establishing uniformity in the construction industry. This uniformity allows building and materials manufacturers to do business on a larger scale—statewide, regionally, nationally or internationally. Larger scale allows cost savings to be passed on to the consumer. Codes also help protect real estate investments, commercial and personal, by providing a minimum level of construction quality and safety. Many construction materials are reviewed for code compliance by the ICC-Evaluation Service.
Steve Daggers VP Communications International Code Council
“A simple shack’s collapse is likely to cause less damage to human safety than a multi-floor building that collapses”. -Architect, John McAslan, who has been working on a project linked to the Clinton Global Initiative in Haiti
“To be earthquake proof, buildings, structures and their foundations need to be built to be resistant to sideways loads. The lighter the building is, the less the loads”. - Rollo Reid C Eng FIStrucE, Director, Reid Steel.