Materials Evolve. Our Code Does Too.

By Frank Fortino

We speak often of building materials, and how the evolution of these materials shapes our industry. As time passes, new material make old ones obsolete. They pave the way for construction techniques impossible to imagine in the past, and these techniques in turn speed up project timelines. New materials open the door to reaching energy efficiency standards that not so long ago were very far away. Often, the evolution of materials outpaces our own industry, and certainly our Building Code.

The launch of the 2008 Code truly ushered in the age of materials. Now, in a span of just seven years we have the 2014 Code. Part of the need for a new Code has been this fast evolution of materials, and their role in our industry.

Case in point – Buildings Bulletin 2015-012 released on May 19th. The Bulletin recognizes that the DOB now believes that corrugated Polypropylene piping and fittings are an acceptable alternative for use as storm water sewer systems when used outside of the foundation wall of a building. So long as the pipe does not connect to any interior piping system, and the piping and fittings are greater than 12 inches, Polypropylene is a go.

The 2008 Code considered the only compliant solution to this scenario to be corrugated polyethlylene piping and fittings. That was then, this is now.

What’s the difference in layman’s terms? This gets a bit technical, but polypropylene is a bit lighter, more flexible and perhaps a bit easier to work with, which makes a difference on the job. There’s also likely a cost incentive. For the use case of storm water sewer run off, where there’s no human consumption of the water, it’s an easy step to make.

The takeaways here are two fold. First, we are seeing an unprecedented speed in which new materials are becoming new standards. Second, it’s important to see that the DOB is keeping up with this pace of change.

Green lighting polypropylene for storm water runoff, which seems to relate to such a small detail of any project tells me that the DOB is taking this materials conversation very serious. They are following technology, trends and the impact of materials, and they are staying current with change.

As far as decoding the granular specifics of Buildings Bulletin 2015-012?  We’ll have to leave that one to the engineers.