What if you read about a new material or a different method of construction that is not covered in the code and want to try it out? There may be a way to get it approved if you have a little patience, and it may be getting easier with the next edition of the code.
Section R104.11 allows the building official to approve alternative materials, design and methods of construction. This provision is intended to allow new products and creative designs to be used without waiting for the code to change. It allows for innovation and creativity and the next generation of buildings to be developed.
The section requires the building official to approve a proposal when they find it complies with the intent of the code and will perform at least equal to what is required by the code. So, the first step to get your material or design approved is to demonstrate how it will perform. Sometimes a simple engineer’s report will provide all the information a building official will need to give approval. Sometimes it is necessary to have the material or method tested in a testing laboratory to demonstrate equivalency. Sometimes details supplied by the manufacturer can suffice.
When thinking about using something not specified in the code the first step is to find documentation on its performance. Bring the documentation to the building official with a request that it be evaluated for approval. When approval is obtained the plans can be completed and sent in for plan review.
A code change coming with the next edition of the code will require the building official to state in writing why when they do not approve a proposed alternative. This will allow you to gather specific missing documentation or further proofs that can change that decision. And remember you always have the right to appeal to the board of appeals if you think the building official’s decision is not reasonable.
So be creative and help develop the future of the building industry. Just be sure to get documentation to the building official early to give them time to give approval.