The International Code Council (ICC) almost barred the use of fire-retardant wood in multifamily structures. The officials rejected a proposal that would have inadvertently changed the International Building Code (IBC).

An ICC summary of preliminary results from online balloting conducted earlier this year show the controversial amendment (labeled in the poll results as proposal G170-15) was disapproved. The results have not yet been certified.

Once certified, the disapproval means ICC's Building Code Action Committee (BCAC) and wood interests will have dodged a bullet that was fired by mistake. The committee had intended merely to reorganize and clarify a chapter in the IBC. During a hearing at which revision language was discussed, the committee approved the language "with the understanding that this comment included no technical changes to the current code provisions." That turned out to be a mistake.

"Upon further review, the BCAC discovered an unintentional technical change within this comment that would prohibit the use of fire-retardant treated wood (FRTW) in load-bearing exterior walls of Type III construction," the committee said in a position statement. That's a change from the status quo for this type of construction, in which the exterior walls are made of noncombustible materials and fire-retardant wood can be used within exterior wall assemblies. The committee didn't want a change, but ICC rules require that a committee-approved decision get forwarded to a general vote. So BCAC could only urge the provision's disapproval.

Had the change taken effect, multifamily builders would have had to "switch to concrete, masonry or heavy timber walls, or cold-formed steel construction to achieve the same building height and number of stories," the National Association of Home Builders said in an alert. NAHB said the change would have affected Type IV construction--so called "heavy timber" buildings--as well as the Type III. The American Wood Council also notified its members about the problem and the need to disapprove the measure.

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