Subject:“The Masonry Building Code and You”
On the way back from the annual Masonry Society (TMS) meeting and the TMS 402/602 Committee meeting recently, I practiced what a great pundit from my youth once said. “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometime I just sits” (from the comic strip, Pogo). I know I am good at sitting, so I started the thinking process wrangling with the mason contractor’s participation in the development and maintenance of the Masonry Building Codes and Standards.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) develops thousands of standards by using hundreds of committees that have thousands of members. It is a consensus process of voting. That means nothing moves forward without resolving any negative votes. Members fit into 3 categories: Producer, User, and General Interest. There are rules of balance that prevent any category from dominating the process. For mason contractors the issue is one of participation. ASTM Committees C12 and C15 are the two main committees that interest mason contractors the most. C12 is the Committee on Mortars and Grouts for Unit Masonry and C15 is the Committee on Manufactured Masonry Units. On committee C12, mason contractors make up less than 6% of the voting members. And on C15, mason contractor’s participation is slightly better at 7% of the voting members.
TMS 402/602 is the Building Code for Masonry Structures and the Specification for Masonry Structures. It is the responsibility of TMS to maintain this document. This committee also uses consensus voting that makes sure every negative vote is addressed before an issue can go forward. Of the 101 members of the TMS 402/606 committee, only four are mason contractors. If you include the four masonry association representatives, we still have only 8% of the membership. If you look at the voting members only, mason contractor’s participation increases to 10%.
The genesis of my involvement with masonry codes started many years ago when we had a hearth turned down at final inspection for not being deep enough from the front of the hearth to the firebox. We had been building them that size for years. A little research showed that the building code had recently changed. And with the house now completed, the cost to make the change was not trivial. After that we were never behind on any change in code, but always ahead.
As with your membership in MCAA and any other masonry associations, the long term value of these organizations far exceeds their present cost, which is minimal at best.
I remember fondly all those men that invested a good portion of their lives in masonry codes and standards and most are either retired or have passed away. Let me leave you with my version on the old George Jones’ country song called “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”
Who’s gonna fill their shoes,
Who’s gonna stand that tall,
Who’s gonna develop standards,
And masonry codes, Et Al,
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul,
To get the best for me and you,
Lord, I wonder who’s gonna fill their shoes.
As with anything in life, the adage “If It Is To Be – It May Be Up To Me” rings true. I urge each you in this new year to resolve to play a bigger role in the future of masonry by getting more involved with standards and codes at the national level by contacting your MCAA.
As always, remember to “Raise the line and come on around the corner.”