SMA Contingent at ICC Code Hearings

Because of significant issues affecting our industry in the 2024 code cycle many of our members have answered the call to join myself at the ICC Public Comment Hearing to be held this week, September 14 – 18, in Louisville, KY. We will have a contingent of seven SMA members that will stand at the microphone to testify in support of the SMA position on nine issues. We encourage you to tune in to the ICC’s Webcast of the hearing: https://www.iccsafe.org/events/conference/webcast-ac22/.

This is a list of the issues the SMA will address:
IBC Structural – S102
IRC Residential Building – RB7, RB24, RB25, RB44, RB79, RB100, RB118, and RB173

If you can view the webcast* here are the major issues to tune into:

S102 will be heard with the IBC Structural Issues and is the first of our issues on the hearing agenda. This issue is extremely critical to our members that do cable rail installations as it will require a load to be applied to measure the spread of the infill opening limitation. The SMA position is to oppose the proposal and related public comments and recommend further study of the issue to promote consensus upon a proposed code change in the 2027 cycle of the code.

RB44 is a SMA proposal that excludes guards and handrails from the default deflection category of all other structural members. This is important because our testing at MSU has proven the requirement to be over-restrictive. If enforced it would be extreme and potentially eliminate many guard and handrail systems that comply with the load requirements of the code. The all other default value is related to joist deflection and cracking ceiling finishes. It has no basis for guards and handrails.

RB118 simply adds a sentence to the opening limitation code requiring measurements to be determined with no force applied to the sphere.

RB173 is perhaps the most significant issue as it affects every guard installation by providing a prescriptive code for the hardening of the floor system to support the loads applied to the top of the guard. This will assure us that we have a solid floor structure to attach our guard systems whether top or side mounted. Reinforcing I-joists and trusses that have not been engineered will no longer be necessary.

*Note: The hearings are scheduled from 8am to 7pm unless extended. Issues are generally heard in order by number but can be moved back (heard later) in the agenda. The issue being heard and the next issue to be heard is posted on the screen. S102 will likely occur Thursday PM or Friday AM. The IRC (RB issues) will begin no sooner than 8am Friday.

Code Hearing Documents

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SMA Stories – You’ve Got To Buy This Place

by Bob Schutte, SMA Member, Schutte Stair Company

“You’ve got to buy this place, it’s time for me to retire.” Those were the words spoken to me over 40 years ago by my friend Clarence Reeve and that is what started my adventure into the stair business. I didn’t buy Clarence’s business but he did light the fire that led to a lifelong passion of designing and building some of the finest stairs in Cincinnati.

When I started Schutte Stair Company I knew nothing of designing and building stairs so I scoured the libraries for stair building information and found nothing. There was no Google, YouTube or internet at the time, I was on my own. I looked everywhere to find like-minded people in the business and that’s when I came across the Stairway Manufactures Association. In 1992 there was an SMA meeting in Columbus, Ohio that I attended and thus began my association with and membership in what I think has been the best education I could have had in the industry.

Those early years of the SMA were endless meetings about the building code; meetings I thought were so boring but in hindsight were so important to the industry. Attending code hearings and doing handrail testing was the glue that held the SMA together. We were not only colleagues but we became friends.

Involvement with the committees and being on the Board of Directors helped me understand the commitment everyone made to better the association. We were eventually able to turn the focus from codes to education where we shared common knowledge, not only stair knowledge but also business knowledge. These were the tools I was looking for as I sought out information in my early years in the stair business, tools I needed to run my company.

My involvement in the SMA led to an amazing transformation from knowing the others in the association as “members” to realizing they became my “friends.” The years have led to shop visits, social gatherings, zoom calls, and camping trips. Now we talk about families and grandkids as well as new stair designs, handrail height, and headroom clearance.

Life is full of change, and so it is for the SMA. It no longer is the Stairway Manufactures Association, it’s the Stairbuilders and Manufactures Association. The association is an all-encompassing organization of stairbuilders, manufacturers, suppliers and support companies that will continue promoting beautifully designed, safe stairways while also continuing to build close friendships and lasting bonds.

I look back over the last thirty years as a stair builder and realize I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my “friends” in the SMA and I thank you for all you’ve done for me, my family, and my business. Without you this adventure wouldn’t have been possible.

As my friend Clarence said, “it’s time for me to retire”. That being said, I’m announcing the closing of Schutte Stair Company effective August 2, 2022, 32 years from the date we started. There are grandkids that need to be played with, fish that need to be caught, traveling with my wife in our RV and not only seeing the country but also seeing the world.

Thank you everyone for all you gave.

Stand Up! Testify!

IN THE BEGINNING, there were Stairs! In the beginning of the SMA that is, stairs were threatened by unfounded regulation of our industry through the building code. We went in numbers to the code hearings sometimes as many as 8 or 10 SMA Members in line at the microphone to reason our objections based upon our experience. In number, we were able to impress those listening that if nothing else we were to be taken seriously. We were on foreign ground with little knowledge of the process but with 3 minutes a piece, we were able to make a dent that delayed action until we could muster the testing and research necessary to prove our point.

Today, the SMA has a professional code development representative. Though we are interested, supportive of the results, and knowledgeable of the interpretation and enforcement of the codes we are complacent as to the process of code development and how it is affected by sheer numbers at the hearings. In this cycle we have several issues drawing significant attention of regulators that will have a direct impact on your business.

• A prescribed method of how to build the edge of a floor system to resist the loads transferred by guards will eliminate the need to add blocking where I-joists and trusses have not been engineered for the attachment of guards. Strongly supported by the SMA, through their efforts to organize an industry-wide task group of all sectors affected to submit a proposal for a prescriptive engineered solution.
• Application of a load on cables to test opening limitations. SMA needs to defeat a proposals that tries to identify cable guards like traffic barriers and/or invoke extreme loads.
• Elimination of a deflection requirement for guards. A complicated unenforced and unnecessary requirement the SMA has proposed to be eliminated for residential guards.

The next code hearing will be held within a few miles of the demographic center of our membership in Louisville, Kentucky, September 14 -21, 2022. Your presence, or lack thereof, may be the deciding factor…the proverbial straw. Look at your calendar and mark the dates. If it might be possible for you to attend and stand up for how you make your livelihood, let us know by contacting Dave Cooper, SMA Code Development Representative, at coderep@stairways.org. He will organize the SMA contingent and will be sure to contact you to be among those defenders that STAND UP, and TESTIFY, willing to do their part.

#SMAStairs #StairCode #ICCstairs #stairways #stairwaysorg #staircase #SMAMembership #staircase #stairbuilders #StairManufacturers

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

For you who are to young to remember, this ad slogan for auto tires indicates where the true test of successful achievement would be determined. If we had been texting back then it might have simply been WRMR. We do like our abbreviations and acronyms.

The Public Comment Hearing (PCH) is the place where proposed codes meet the true test of successful acceptance. I reported on the Committee Action Hearing (CAH) in the last newsletter article “Live From New York”. Since then, the building safety community has been busy submitting public comments on the proceedings of the CAH. The deadline was June 20th. The International Code Council (ICC) is now compiling them for publication on August 4th. Those proposals that did receive public comments will go to what is called the consensus ballot for approval of the action taken at the CAH. If a public comment was submitted the issue will be on the agenda of the PCH for further debate and consideration to be approved as submitted, approved as modified by public comment, or disapproved.

One of the comments supported by the SMA offers a modification requested by the ICC committee that approved the original proposal by a vote of 5-4. The original proposal was developed by the Post Connection Task Group as organized by the SMA from all sectors of the industry with a stake in a prescriptive code for “hardening” the edge of floor systems where guards are installed. Although the SMA was the “sole proponent” listed on the original proposal the public comment will be submitted with the inclusion of many of the key participants from the Task Group as proponents in addition to the SMA. The modification for the most part addresses improvements suggested at the CAH.

The second proposal is a modification of the definition proposed for “Landing” by the SMA but disapproved. The committee agreed there is a difference between a landing and a floor and such a definition would improve interpretation of the code especially where the code uses the term “floor or landing” leaving too much to interpretation.

Following the ICC’s publication of all the Public Comments received the SMA Code Committee
will meet to review them and establish positions and talking points for testimony at the Public Comment Hearing to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, September 14-21. As with all ICC code development processes anyone can participate, attend a code hearing, anyone can testify and be heard.

If you are looking for a better understanding how and why regulations affect your business, job, community, family, wallet, and how you might have an impact, you will find this to be an eye-opening learning experience. This hearing decides the national model code and attracts experts from across the country, but a similar public process occurs in every local jurisdiction having authority when the model is adopted and modified. In that forum you will be listened to as the local expert authority, a stakeholder in the safety and economy of the community. Will you let it happen around you or consider attending the hearing as on the job training from experts in every field in how to impact the codes that regulate your products and services. How will your tires do on the bumps ahead?

Stair Balustrade Successfully Educating Future Industry Leaders

The balustrade class was inspired in August of 2016 at the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) when the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) asked the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association to give a presentation at one of their events in St. Louis, Missouri the following November.

The 2-day presentation was so successful that those involved in it wanted to offer a an improved version to the SMA. Soon afterward the Education Committee began an in-depth writing process of a post-to-post program. This process included far too many people to name and took thousands of hours to complete.

The class morphed from a 2-day class to a 3-day event with the pilot class hosted at Stairworx in August 2018. Student reviews provided detailed feedback to the instructors which allowed them to continue to improve the class. Soon, the SMA had 2 more classes hosted by Carolina Stair Supply and Crown Heritage. Again, student reviews allowed the team to revise the curriculum after each session to provide the best learning opportunity for the students.

Then COVID hit. But, the Education Committee didn’t stop even though the class was on hold for 2 years. During this time, it was decided to add over-the-post railing, so the writing continued.

Over-the-post railing was introduced at the first class of 2022 in St. Louis at the NWFA Training Facility and it was a huge success. Once again, the committee listened to the students resulting in the addition of many more in-depth baluster layouts and hands-on rail assembly was introduced at the most recent class hosted by Coffman Stair Parts. The Stair Balustrade class received great reviews from the participants but the work is never done as we will continue to review and modify the curriculum to includes the new products and techniques that come from SMA members.

If you are looking for your installers to grow, this class is a must. The networking, as at any SMA event, is amazing. I was asked early on if I would send my installers to this class and the answer is YES. They will receive knowledge and information from many different SMA members. It has been gratifying to see students from all over the USA and Canada take their craft to the next level.