SEAOC Evaluation Report Committee (ERC) Update

By Mark Moore, S.E., LEED AP and Angie Sommer, S.E. - SEAOC Evaluation Report Committee

It's been a little while since the ERC has provided an update to SEAOC, so we’ll start with a short refresher on what our committee is about. The Evaluation Report Committee’s mission is to facilitate use of alternate materials, processes, and systems in a responsible and consistent manner. Product Evaluation Reports (ERs) are tools to aid the Building Official and design professional in assessing if a product or system meets the prescriptive requirements and/or intent of the code. Used by the construction industry for decades, they facilitate the use of new, innovative products through an evolving and defined review process prior to the adoption of a product or system by the model building code. As this process has evolved, questions have arisen regarding how ERs are developed, how they are used, whether they provide consistency and meet the intent of the code, and how to improve the existing ER development process. In 2009, the SEAOC Evaluation Reports Committee was tasked to answer these questions and to provide recommendations for improvements.

Since that time, much progress has been made, though much still lays ahead as well. The committee’s major accomplishments so far have included a white paper describing the process of creating, vetting, and publishing Evaluation Reports and—possibly even more importantly—the Acceptance Criteria (AC) upon which ERs are based. The committee published this paper in the 2013 SEAOC Blue Book with a dedication to one of its great contributors, Bohdan Nicholas (Nick) Horeczko, who passed away in 2014 and to whom the industry owes a great many achievements. The findings from the white paper were also presented at the 2013 SEAOC Convention.

Following the research presented in the white paper and Blue Book article, the committee has taken the next steps to improving the process of effective use of Evaluation Reports by proposing a code change to CBC Section 104.11: Alternate Means of Compliance. The proposed change addresses the need for more clearly outlined processes for evaluating seismic-resisting elements in high seismic areas under this provision. Specifically, the proposal states that seismic-resisting elements submitted under Section 104.11 must either have an Evaluation Report from an accredited organization or a project-specific peer review must be performed by a subject matter expert. This proposal is a huge step toward greater consistency in the use of the building code, as well as increased seismic safety in our building stock. It was submitted to ICC for approval in early 2016.

Looking to the future, the committee has set a variety of goals for 2016 which include re-invigorating the committee’s efforts toward its mission statement and finding new ways to generate publicity for the challenges regarding the creation, approval, maintenance, and application of AC and ERs. Recent press regarding litigation between two of the largest providers of Evaluation Reports, ICC-ES and IAPMO, reminds us all of just some of the challenges that the industry faces in regulating the creation of ERs and also renews the committee’s dedication to remain respectful of all stakeholders as we pursue our mission. The committee looks to follow through on the code change proposal for Section 104.11 and continue to contribute to this controversial industry topic in a respectful, productive way that holds the safety of the end user of our building stock as its highest priority.

The committee is always open to feedback and comments, as well as new members. Please contact Mark Moore of ZFA Structural Engineers at markm@zfa.com with any inquiries.

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