successfully obtaining a code evaluation report

What makes for successfully obtaining a code evaluation report?

(c) Jeff R. Filler, 2021

The use of building products in construction that are not described in the building code, or not described completely in the building code, generally requires the specific approval of the building authority (department) having jurisdiction over the building project. The approval of such products is greatly facilitated with a code evaluation report of the product. A code evaluation report (code report or evaluation report) is generally provided by an agency qualified to evaluate such products (such as the International Code Council Evaluation Service, ICC-ES). The evaluation report is particularly valuable as a single evaluation report of the product issued by the evaluation agency can generally be presented for product acceptance to any building department functioning under the building codes to which the product was evaluated. The evaluating agency generally relies on evidence provided by the manufacturer, for review by the agency, with respect to compliance with the code. The evaluating agency generally charges fees for such evaluations, and the cost of obtaining the evidence needed for review, are carried by the product manufacturer. The time and expense involved in the evaluation process are outweighed by the benefit of obtaining a product evaluation report that may be used for multiple projects under multiple jurisdictions. To avoid unnecessary delay and expenses with the evaluation process, seekers of code evaluation reports can benefit from the following so as to have the evaluation process, ending in successful completion (publication) of a code report, go as smoothly, and swiftly, as possible.

1. Engage the evaluation agency

    • Describe – be able to describe the product, where the product fits in the building code, and previous difficulties, if any, in seeking product approvals
    • connect – seek to speak with an evaluator in the agency to make sure you and the agency start on common ground, and parse expectations – what the agency needs from the manufacturer/evaluation report applicant – and what the agency will provid
    • applicable evaluation criteria – determine the acceptance criteria that bear on the product for code approval

2. Execute necessary administrative actions

    • applicable contract documents, fees, agreements with respe3ct to proprietary dat
    • scope of work

3. Test and evaluation plan

    • work with the agency to arrive at a detailed, mutually-agreed-upon, test and evaluation plan (Test Plan)
    • the Test Plan derives from the applicable Acceptance Criteria

4. Utilize accredited test laboratories (where product testing is required)

5. Retain competent professionals (where analyses, computations, or third party conclusions are advised or required)

6. Provide a complete and well-organized submittal of needed documentation

    • The product manufacturer must `prove the case’ to the evaluation agency
    • The submittal provides the information that was agreed to in the Test Plan
    • The submittal package should make approval as `clean and easy’ as possible. Evaluation service staff are busy like the rest of us. Make is as easy as possible for the agency to `connect the dots’, agree with the submittal, and write the evaluation report
    • The submittal may include a draft evaluation report.

The evaluation process may be punctuated with time required for product testing, and obtaining documentation from any necessary third parties. The evaluation may also be drawn out if acceptance criteria need to be developed, or existing criteria revised. As such, it is crucial that, as early as possible, the manufacturer (or product sponsor), and evaluation agency, agree upon what acceptance criteria are applicable, and the plan in which the requirements of the acceptance criteria will be fulfilled.