The Right Way to Evaluate Building Products

icc building product certification

Building code officials need more transparency in the building product evaluation arena to ensure specified products comply with codes and standards.

 

Safe buildings begin with the materials. To protect our communities, all materials, designs and products used in the built environment are thoroughly tested and evaluated to a list of accepted criteria developed by an approved organization.

Here in the United States we have many service providers in the building product evaluation arena. However, they do not all have the institutional knowledge and accreditation scope to provide the services they claim. For code officials who are expected to properly evaluate that products comply with codes and standards, the field of evaluation providers can be a tricky one to navigate.

So, how can code officials make sure the products in the buildings they are evaluating are up-to-code and correctly installed? The first step is to make sure the evaluation service provider is accredited with a scope of accreditation pertaining to the products they have evaluated. Code officials should contact the accreditation bodies themselves to determine the answer to the following questions:

  • Is the evaluation service provider claiming to be accredited actually accredited and in good standing? The organization should be accredited to ISO/IEC 17065, the international standard for certification bodies.
  • In cases where the evaluation is conducted to the ICC-ES acceptance criteria, does their scope of accreditation include evaluation to such documents?

Next, code officials need to review the evaluation reports published by evaluation service providers to ascertain that the report is published to a standard or criteria (not a collection of unspecified documents and opinions), and that the report relates to the product and use of such products for the installation in question.

The International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), accredited by the American National Standards Institute, is the industry leader in performing technical evaluations for code compliance, having completed evaluations of thousands of building products, components, methods, and materials.

Importantly, ICC-ES has developed an extensive list of acceptance criteria for its evaluations that are discussed and approved through a rigorous review process that includes input from code officials in jurisdictions across the United States and a series of public hearings. This process, unique to ICC-ES, offers transparency that helps level the playing field for manufacturers, industry professionals, and the public.

ICC-ES is the only accredited agency to conduct product evaluation to internal documents, including acceptance criteria, and is the only agency that has institutional knowledge about these criteria and can provide interpretation about these documents.

To truly comply with the ICC model codes and standards, products and materials first must have the ICC-ES evaluation report, which represents the most trusted and readily-accepted report for a product’s code compliance in the nation, making it the best tool for ensuring safe installation. ICC will only issue evaluation reports for products that successfully complete its stringent evaluation process.

Code officials should look for the ICC-ES marking on building and plumbing products for peace of mind when approving products. The ICC-ES marking means these products have been properly evaluated to nationally-recognized acceptance criteria by a correctly accredited evaluation agency.

Don’t be fooled by erroneous claims from other evaluation services. Our safety depends on it.

Shahin Moinian, P.E. is the president of ICC Evaluation Service, a nonprofit, limited liability company that does technical evaluations of building products, components, methods and materials. ICC-ES is a member of the ICC Family of Companies.

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