Storm Shelters to be Required in New Schools in Illinois

A couple years ago I wrote about the impact of tornadoes in the Midwest. Those of us who live in the Midwest know that most of the time, when we hear tornado warning sirens we need to seek shelter immediately. And if we do so, in most cases, we will be fine. But every year we hear stories where that wasn’t that case. Last year several homes were destroyed in Washington and Coal City IL and people were hurt. A few years before that people in a small town along the Illinois River sought shelter in the oldest building in town when the tornado warnings were sounded. They figured since it was the oldest building in town it was the most likely to have withstood tornadoes before and it could withstand the next one. But they were wrong, and several died.

Due to this, I was very happy to learn recently that my home state of Illinois has put in place requirements for emergency storm shelters that comply with ICC 500, in new public schools. I can remember being very frightened for my own children several years ago, when our own community was under a tornado watch. The school’s emergency plan was to bring all the children to the gymnasium! I suppose their thinking was that it would be best to have all the children together in one place. But a large, open space like that, with a tall exterior wall with windows in it, was absolutely the worse place in the entire building for them to be. They would have been much better off seeking shelter in the hallway, away from any exterior windows. As I recall, my son was aware of this and he challenged the principal on his decision to bring all the students into the gymnasium. Oh how I miss receiving those types of calls from the New Lenox School District!

At that time the student population in New Lenox was growing at a rate of 1 classroom of children per month. So they were building new schools at a fairly quick rate. And none of them were equipped with a safe place for our children to be during a tornado.

So, I raise my hat to the Illinois legislature for putting these new provisions in place. Although I no longer have children in the Kindergarten through high school age range, several of my friends have children or grand children in that age range in Illinois. For them I thank you.

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I have not blogged for a while. Maria and lizard
In February my daughter Maria passed away.
And so, while I have continued to write about codes as required by the commitments I had previously made to others, I have not been inclined to spend any additional time writing about codes for this blog site.
But yesterday was Epiphany (January 6). And when I shared with a friend all the lessons I learned from having had my daughter, and having lost her, she said I had gone through an Epiphany. So today I am blogging about that epiphany.
I learned I was pregnant with Maria while a Senior at Northwestern University. Her biological father said he didn’t care what I did about the baby as long as it didn’t involve him. Most of my friends said that having a baby at that stage of our lives was “not in their schedule”. It would be “inconvenient” and they would probably “consider terminating the pregnancy”.
I figured God would not have given me this baby if he didn’t think I could handle it. And I knew I had been blessed with a loving and supportive family who would help me take care of her. So I had her and I kept her.

Maria and pjs
God was faithful to us. I learned that if I relied upon God he would provide. That was my first lesson.
Not only will he provide, but if we let him, he can do fantastic things with our lives. Maria brought an incredible amount of color into my life – into the lives of all who knew her.
She taught us to see beauty in unexpected places. She taught me about the contrast between light and dark, and how darkness allows us to more fully see and appreciate light. She taught us to care for the earth, and for our own bodies as well.

Maria, Jonny and Jenny
Looking around the room at those who had assembled for her funeral I was touched by the diversity of the group. From rather strict, right winged fundamentalists to today’s version of the free loving hippies – Maria had touched them all.

Sunshine Maria
And so I learned that God can do things that go far beyond our own imagination – if we allow him to do so. That was my second lesson.
As I went through the process of grieving I learned that God will give us hope beyond our sorrow, but sometimes he does that just one day at a time. And we have to accept that there will be times in our life when one day at a time, sometimes even just one step at a time, is all we can handle. So we take one step at a time, relying upon God to give us the strength to do so and he will. And he will give us hope. It may just be the hope that it does not rain that day and spoil our picnic.

Maria and Grandpa with birthday hat 001

But for that day, our hope will be greater than our sorrow. At those times we should not worry about tomorrow. Just take it one step, one day, one hope at a time and God will get us through it. That was my third lesson.
The most difficult lesson for me has always been to just let go and trust God. Too often I feel the need to take the reins and try to control where things were going. This is something I struggle with daily.
What I have learned from having had, and lost, Maria is that we take ourselves out of the Garden of Eden when we stop trusting God and turn to our own devices instead. It was the original sin, and it’s a snare that is way too easy to fall into. This has been my fourth lesson, and it is one I continue to learn.

Maria and snake
Along with that is the lesson that even when we stop trusting God and we mess up his plans royally, although we have to live with the consequences of our actions, he can still turn things around for good. Somewhere in Romans it says “God uses all things for good, for those who love the Lord and keep his commandments.”
Having had, and lost, Maria has really brought that home to me. In spite of the times I stopped trusting God, stepped in and try to run things my own way, he has blessed me in phenomenal ways. This includes having given me two incredible sons, and having brought me into the world of codes and code development, with all the colorful people I have been privileged to know because of my involvement in this world. I have had many wonderful experiences due to both gifts. This has been my fifth lesson.
I have also come to realize that in order to experience true joy we must allow ourselves to also experience sorrow. We must not seek to avoid sorrow. Just as darkness helps us more clearly see the light, so too does sorrow help us more deeply experience joy. This has been my sixth lesson.
And finally, I have learned that it is from that death and sorrow that new life is born. The joy of the new birth is dependent upon the death of that which is currently living. Hence the verse “Death, where is thy sting?” The sting has given way to new birth.
This has been my seventh and final lesson. It has helped me understand why we rejoice at the birth of the Baby Jesus.

IMG_0891 (1)
Because of Jesus death is not death, but rebirth. And sorrow is not merely sorrow. Sorrow is a preamble to Joy.






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Tornadoes and Severe Storms

I attended a seminar on Tornadoes and Severe Storms on Sat, April 6, 2013. It was hosted by WGN-TV in Chicago. I learned a few interesting things that I thought were worth sharing.

First of all, there are an average of 1500 tornadoes reported each year, worldwide. But the Great Plains and Upper Midwest of the U.S. are considered the “Epicenter” of Tornadoes worldwide because the greatest concentration of tornadoes occur there.

The science of weather prediction has made significant advances in recent years. This includes the ability to spot a tornado, or potential weather patterns that could form a tornado, well before it hits. But the general public often does not respond to these warnings.

One reason, quite likely, is that when a tornado watch or warning is given, no indication is given of the potential magnitude of the event. Over the course of the past 5 years, 97% of the deaths due to tornadoes that occurred were the result of only 13% of the tornadoes.

In other words, for 87% of the tornadoes that occurred there were little or no fatalities. Only about 1 out of 10 tornadoes are deadly.

So the key would be to know when such a tornado is heading your way. That is what meteorologists are working on now. When they predict rain, or snow, they give an indication of the potential magnitude of the event. Our planned activity on any given day will be much different if 2 feet of snow is predicted instead of 2 inches.

Its not clear yet just what this new warning system will look like. In what way will the public be warned of the potential magnitude of a pending tornado? But hopefully it will be done in such a way that the public can have a greater indication of just when they need to take shelter. And hopefully they will.

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Frankenstorm Sandy

IN the wake of the devastation reeked by Frankenstorm Sandy, you will probably hear a lot about people who some feel did not do enough.

But I want to talk about some people who have done much more than they could be expected to do, and who have done that not just for a few days or even weeks, but for decades.

I am talking about the code and fire officials of New Jersey who have dedicated their lives to preserving lives in that state.

And I am talking about three distinct individuals – John Terry, Stephen Jones and Bob Davidson, who doesn’t even live in New Jersey anymore, who were all in attendance at the International Code Council’s Annual Business Meeting and Final Action Hearings in Portland, OR a few days before the storm hit, but who changed their travel plans and scrambled to get home “while they still could”  so they could participate in what they knew would be an exceptionally demanding storm response effort. While others in attendance at the conference in Portland may have wondered “Why would they be in a hurry to get back home BEFORE the storm hits” these three were very adamant they needed to be there – for the sake of their families, and for the sake of other first and second responders that they refer to as “brothers”.

To me, that is the real story of this event – the efforts that they went through to be where they knew they would be needed, before they ever were.

By the way – John Terry received the ICC Code Official of the Year award while at the ICC conference. Stephen Jones is on the ICC Board of Directors. And Bob Davidson is a retired fire official who still teaches Continuing Education Classes to existing firemen for the state of New Jersey.

I find their story compelling. And I hope you do, too.

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Believe it or not, this has code ramifications

Most of you are probably aware of the Chick Fil A controversy. You may have heard it had something to do with the owner of Chick Fil A having made comments against same sex marriage. And Mike Huckabee declaring August 1 as “Chick Fil A Appreciation Day”. And people turning out in droves to show their support for Chick Fil A’s owner, Dan Chaney, and his right to say he does not support same sex marriage.

But what you may not realize is this all boils down to a code administration issue.

The reason is – what started the controversy in the first place, at least here in Chicago, and the reason I drove to my nearest Chick Fil A on August 1 to show support of the owners – was a decision made by Chicago alderman Joe Moreno to block the construction of a new Chick Fil A in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood due to Mr. Moreno’s concerns with Dan Chaney’s beliefs. Mr Moreno’s concerns are based upon his own speculation that Mr. Chaney’s belief may result in discriminatory practices at a Chicago based location.

Mr. Moreno’s efforts to block the construction of the new Chick Fil A was simply that he refused to allow them to be issued the zoning permit and traffic control permits they needed to construct their store in the Logan Square location.

Chicago Mayor Rahn Emmanuel has supported Alderman Moreno’s efforts. Mayor Emmanuel has stated “The beliefs of the owners of Chick Fil A are not consistent with the beliefs of Chicagoans.”

Now, construction codes establish specific criteria for construction. Zoning codes establish specific criteria for zoning. Those criteria are to be based upon concerns such as life safety, fire safety and what is good for the economic vitality of a community.

If any applicant for a permit meets the criteria of the code, officials representing that jurisdiction do not have the right to deny them their needed permits simply because they do not agree with their religious beliefs.

For the government officials to do that is a violation of freedom of speech.

This has been a very interesting issue because you have groups such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Times coming out on the same side as much more conservative groups who share the owner’s beliefs about same sex marriage.

I personally do not believe that a Chicago alderman and mayor have the right to deny zoning permits in the City of Chicago simply because the owner’s religious beliefs may not play out well with some of the people who put them in office.

And based upon the reaction I saw yesterday at the Orland Park, IL Chick Fil A, where I waited 2 hours and 15 minutes to get my sandwich, a fairly large number of Americans also agree with me, ACLU, the New York Times, and the religious right.




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Doors that don’t leak to be permitted in the 2015 IBC

It is not uncommon for apartments to have exterior decks, balconies or patios. A recent interpretation by the HUD Department of Fair Housing, however, made it difficult for door manufacturers to provide doors to these spaces that did not permit water to penetrate underneath the door into the apartment.

The reason for this difficulty was a very low height limit that was placed on the threhold of those doors as part of the “visitibility” requirements of HUD. 

A proposal from AAMA was approved during the ICC Group A Code Development Hearings that will permit the higher thresholds needed to resist water penetration under these doors. These higher thresholds can only be used when a permitted step down from the interior space to the exterior deck, balcony or patio is taken.



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Standards Referenced in International Codes

A proposal to reference 2 AAMA standards, AAMA 711 and AAMA 715, in the 2015 IBC was disapproved yesterday.

From what I have been able to determine, at least part of the reason was due to confusion on the part of at least one committee member with regards to what the requirements are for standards referenced in the International Codes.

A representative of the EIFS industry opposed one of the standards. She indicated that her industry had been unaware of the development of the standard, and that therefore its development was not consistent with ICC’s requirement that referenced standards be developed in an open and consensus manner.

In actuality, 5 members of the EIFS Manufacturers Association (EIMA) participated in the balloting of the standard in question (AAMA 714). So it would appear that her claim that the standard was not developed in an open manner was incorrect.

But the disapproval of AAMA 711 and AAMA 714 was only partly due to this partys claim that the standard was not developed in an open manner. The other factor was that at least one of the committee members thought the ICC required all standards referenced in its codes to either be developed through ASTM, or approved by ANSI.

In actuality, ICC Council Policy #28 requires standards to be developed through an open and consensus process SUCH AS ASTM or ANSI. It does not specifically require standards to either be ASTM or ANSI approved.

The more difficult question to answer is “Just what constitutes an ‘open and consensus’ process?”

The best answer is to look at the intent. The intent is to permit all interested parties the ability to participate in the development of the standard, and to have their opinions heard.

The process used by AAMA is an “open and consensus process”. We will need to revisit that with the ICC through Public Comment on AAMA 711 and AAMA 714.


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ICC to pilot remote voting in 2014 Code Change Cycle

Those of us assembled here in Dallas for the ICC Group A Code Hearings learned yesterday that the ICC Board of Directors has added a third Code Change Cycle for 2014 for a single code. This additional cycle will be used to pilot a remote voting process. The single code it will be applied to will be the IgCC.

There are a lot of questions about just how a remote voting process would work. This is amplified by the fact that it is anticipated it will include what is being referred to as “a flexible voting window” for those who are voting remotely.  Due to this, the results on any proposal or public comment will not be immediately known. We won’t know the final results of the voting until after the “flexible voting window” has closed and the total votes (from the voting members at the hearings plus those submitted remotely) have been tallied and presented to all those concerned.

The point was made during yesterday’s presentation that the ICC process has been an evolving process since its inception. 15 years ago each legacy code agency had their own independent process. Over those years the ICC process has come into being, as it is today. We can anticipate that in 15 years it will again look quite different than it does at this time.

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And the Next Cycle Begins

Heading to Dallas TX next week for the ICC Group A Code Development Hearings. Although these hearings will deal with the International Building Code and NOT the International Energy Conservation Code or the International Green Construction Code, many of the proposals that will be considered are a result of recent changes to those two codes. For example, there are several code change proposals that deal with the fire safety risk from increased use of insulation in the exterior walls due to a more stringent IECC.

Another topic that will be addressed in several proposals is the change of wind speed model in ASCE 7-10. There are several proposals to correlate the new provisions of ASCE 7-10 to existing referenced standards such as AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440.

I will be blogging the hearing results as the hearings proceed. A webcast of the hearings will also be available at



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Prescriptive Energy in the 2012 IgCC

The 2012 IgCC will require the U-factor and SHGC for fenestration to be 10% lower than that of the 2012 IECC when the prescriptive energy compliance path is chosen.

The prescriptive path will be limited to buildings less than 25,000 sq. ft. in area.

Since the outcome based compliance path was also deleted from the IgCC, buildings greater than 25,000 sq. ft. in area will need to be designed using the performance based path of the 2012 IECC.

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