If you selected “1-Fully Code Compliant” in your Criteria Matrix, then you will want to ensure that that all of your design, material, and systems decisions are in conformance with the prescriptive language of the code. There are multiple options and pathways embedded within the code’s prescriptions, and you and your design team can work through these prescriptive options and find the ones that best match the rest of your criteria choices. It may be possible to meet high goals in each category of the Criteria Matrix using fully code compliant prescriptions.
Testing data Both codes specify a preference for tests that are done to a code-recognized standard, such as ASTM, ANSI, or CSA. If the tests were not performed to the standard used by the code, you will be required to show how the testing varies from these standards and how the results may be interpreted to show equivalency. For example, if you are using tests performed to European standards, you will need to show how they meet the intent of North American tests and standards and account for any differences in testing methodology and results.
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Referenced standards Some materials and assemblies are not directly recognized as accepted solutions within the code, but an independent standard may exist that is referenced by the code. In these cases, a product manufacturer or trade association will have hired a standards organization (such as ASTM, CSA, CCMC [Canadian Construction Materials Centre], or others) to create a standard that can be followed by a designer and/or builder.
Past performance An applicant can cite prior examples of the same (or similar) approach used successfully in the jurisdiction. Be sure to have adequate documentation of past performance to ensure that the approach was similar to what you are proposing, and to be sure that it was indeed a successful approach. Past performance or case studies from other jurisdictions or other countries may not be viewed as conclusive evidence, especially if the climates are different. The quality of documentation will be examined carefully, and if it doesn’t stand up, it may not be recognized as proof of equivalency.
Professional seal Though not directly referenced in the code excerpts above, a licensed architect and/or engineer can often provide code equivalency assurance to the building department by applying their seal to the drawings and so ensure that to the best of their professional ability the alternative approach meets the intent of the code.
It may be that all of these approaches are employed on an alternative compliance application. It is entirely up to you as the applicant to provide documentation and any supporting interpretation to the building department. For better or for worse, building departments are reactive, not proactive. They are under no obligation to assist you with your documentation or ensure that it is complete. They are only obliged to respond to what has been provided in the application.
Code consultants are professionals that can be hired to assist an applicant with understanding the code and all the parameters that need to be addressed in order to put forward a complete application. The code consultant can just consult, or he or she can handle the whole submission.