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A win for open access to building codes

A win for open access to building codes

RE: A win for open access to building codes

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

RE: A win for open access to building codes

They're playing with a double edged sword there.

On the one hand: I agree with them 100%. If it's the law, you should be able to read it freely.

On the other hand: Where do you draw the line? The law references the model code, the model code references design standards, ASTM specs, and other documents, and those reference white papers, journal articles, academic research, etc. Sounds like they're at least going down to the ASTM level.

All of that stuff costs money to develop. And without it, we have less development and innovation. We rely on ASTM based testing to feel confident in specifying products and materials.

I imagine we can all expect our membership fees for AISC, NDS, and ACI to go up as they have to make up for the loss of publication revenue. So what happens when people stop paying for those? We just lose all those organizations? Lose the repositories of material specific knowledge?

Making the law more visible is great. But there are a lot of potential unintended consequences that we need to be aware of an guard against.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

FWIW, AISC has been making the standards (AISC Spec., RCSC Spec., COSP, etc.) free for a long time. They'll still sell plenty of Manuals.

I don't mind if this slows down changes. ASCE 7, especially, is unhinged at this point IMO, and ACI 318 is pretty close also.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

I don't know, I was pretty proud of ACI for re-approving 318-19 instead of issuing 318-22.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

There was a similar ruling out of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. Veeck v Southern Building Code Congress.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

I see it going like 271828 says and not being that big of a deal.

Code is free...
All the goodies in the manual, the commentary, etc are going to be the "premium package" for a bit of $$.

Seems to work for AISC, I still will gladly pay the money for the front part of the bible.

IBC is available for free online as well
But the commentary and special features like printing etc etc are what require a subscription.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

The line in the sand is Its The Law.

US pipeline design must comply to the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 Parts 192 and 194, which in turn were based on ASME Pipeline design codes ASME B31.4 and ASME B31.8. 2008 Editions. ASME codes are developed by panel members drawn from member engineers working in and for the pipeline industry companies. These companies provide support, because they recognize the many benefits of doing so.

ASME has reissued updated versions of each of these codes several times since 2008, but the use of the updated versions is not required by US law, as it was only the 2008 editions that were incorporated into US law and US GOV makes available, free to all, the CFRs. The problem has always been the additional documents and specifications that only appear in the CFRs as references. Some are available, but many are not. This ruling, hopefully, will solve that problem.

How can anybody ensure that they follow the law if, for whatever reason, the law, or portions thereof, are not available as public knowledge? How can anyone follow the law, if the law is effectively secret?

If any Org does not want to freely provide any of their work that becomes law, they should not try so hard to get it written into the law, which many apparently view as a solid gold business model. They could instead adopt the open source software model, make the software free, solicit sponsorships, or outright donations, incorporate advertising, or peddle their consulting services, or user manuals and associated educational materials to help users operate the software effectively, or sell enhancements that make the basic version 1000 x easier to use. Make the law free and sell your "value added". It would seem not too far fetched to believe that various valve, pipe, fitting, pump, compressor manufacturers would be willing to develop material and equipment specs, if given the appropriate formum to do so. ASME could consider giving me the 2008 editions free, then charging me extra for access to all the versions that came after. It could be that we just need to exploit our already available resources more effectively. It also seems like that's what's going on anyway. They make some common agreements amongst all manufacturers, then they get some org to put a number on it and sell it to us for extra revenue. But even that's fine. I'm OK with it, at least up till when it becomes a law.and we have to use it. That's the line we cant cross. If I have alternatives, I'm OK with it, but I do need to know how to make something legal, or know when I'm running afoul. Besides, most consultants make their money on value added services. All the CFRs are public knowledge. Anyone can access them, but it's only us experts that really know how to turn them into practical designs, or airline operating plans, or the tax accountants that can save you from paying gov more money then they charge for filing your taxes for you. Anyone can read the Pipeline CFRs, but not everyone can make a working pipeline system out of what those say. That's what I sell; The value that (only) I can add. If I cannot save my customers more than I charge, or cannot deliver them better value then what other bidders offer, I don't get involved.

Finally. I don't bill 100% of my work. This website is ample evidence of that. A certain amount of "give back to the community" helps us all. Why should I have to pay 100%. Or must everything be a zero sum game?

What is painfully obvious is that secret laws cannot possibly accomplish their objectives, unless those objectives are nefarious.


--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

RE: A win for open access to building codes

Sorry, I have to disagree. I am a long time ASTM member and committee participant writing standards; have also been an SAE member at some times. There really is no viable business model for standards development organizations giving away their standards for free. The reality is that the standards are developed by a group of "volunteers", ie, they are paid by their employers (or not at all) not by the standards organizations. The standard development organizations manage the process, develop and maintain the balloting systems, and publish the standards, all of which costs a fair amount; there is no other source of funds other than sales of the standards. Thinking that corporations or governments are going to fund that is a fantasy. (and remember, some decades back the USGovt got out of the standards business, and foisted all of the MIL stds and others onto the SDOs.)

RE: A win for open access to building codes

I've never quite understood how all of this works.
A bunch of volunteers write the standards, so no pay for their efforts.
Then there's maybe $40 worth of printing costs for the document.
But then it costs $400 to buy. So where does that extra $360 go?

It does seem like the cost of some of these standards has far outstripped inflation, with a "because we can" mentality, which is probably the motivation for most of the effort to get them at less or no cost.
ASME B&PV standards are $$$$.
Meanwhile, NFPA has made their standards available online for free for a while now.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

oh cripe. Its not just "printing costs". There is a whole editing process for the standards (engineer volunteers just make draft docs; editors have to format, prepare for publication, etc.). There is a complex balloting process for the standards for them to be approved. There are meeting costs when the committees meet in person. And other overhead costs.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

SW, Fine, as I said, IMO, you cross the invisible line when it's the law.

I realize much of the effort is "volunteer labor", which really only means that you are being exploited too, probably much worse than the rest of us. A recent example perhaps shows exactly how you are being exploited. PHMSA has published a proposed ruling to be added to the Pipeline CFRs. Primarily a new prescribed method to prevent future Merrimack Valley Ztype catastrophes, with new requirements for low pressure gas regulation stations. PHMSA apparently wrote the proposed regulations and they have been printed in the Federal Register for public comment. The Pipeline Industry Association, et al, other lobbiests have made 174 pages of very technical, engineering and legal related comments. They obviously did a couple thousand tons of work passing it around amongst all the member companies to gather up all the responses and collate the input to that public comment. I sincerely doubt that all that work was done by volunteer staff. I can easily imagine that the lobbiest's lawyers and technical staff were all quite well paid for their work one way or another. (Probably by all of us gas purchasers.) Yet you apparently do similar work ... for nothing? Could you please explain why you chose to volunteer to write codes? How do you justify to yourself and your family all the personal time and expenses of taking that on. And ... wouldn't it be better if engineers were being paid to do that work, exactly like the lobbiest's technical and legal staff are? Fair wage for fair work is something that plumbers understand pretty well. Why don't engineers get it?

I don't see how it cannot be monitized by other means. But given, some creativity might be required. Lobbiests seem to manage writing laws, exactly how they want them, at no expense to our wonderful Congress men and women. What about YouTube. Record a video of the code text, discuss the reasoning of why things are required, the more intriguing complexities and the various interpretations that have arisen, etc, etc. Make an ASME Code Channel and monetize the hell out of all of them as YT videos. YT will take care of all your advertising revenue share and plunk it all into the ASME, IEEE, ISO whatever bank account.

Also please explain how DNV managed to make all their standards across many industries all FREE to download, but it is somehow impossible for others. Spoiler: Need to break the golden business plan.



BTW, The former COE, NAVFAC, military specs have all been combined and converted into the Unified Facilities Guide Specifications, Whole Building Design Guides. All free to those that do DOD work.

Regardless, looks like some changes are in the works.

--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

RE: A win for open access to building codes

A possible avenue for funding the different organizations would be to tax construction/development - likely during permit application.

Improvements of the building code and different standards serves as a benefit to society at large, it serves to reason that the cost of their developments should be borne by all - where as now it seems to be a larger burden on the design community.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

How do you justify to yourself and your family all the personal time and expenses of taking that on.
- some time was paid by my employer, justified as it was relevant to my job
- it is a good way to network, particularly when I was an independent consultant
- it builds knowledge and capabilities; looks good on a resume
- can influence the standards so they are more useful, relevant, technically correct, etc.

I'm not familiar with DNV standards or processes.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

While I now can afford to just buy and write off building codes, for many years as a younger engineer, getting the new version was prohibitively expensive and I just continued using the versions from college. Steel was a good example. They tried the LRFD thing and by the time I bought a new manual, they'd settled into nothing much has actually changed since the green book. As ASCE now changes dramatically every iteration (we are going BACK to more straightforward wind?) you have to buy them. I just bought ASCE7-22 and they were trying very hard to get me to buy it as a subscription and pay to use it every year. Is it going to change every year? Yikes!

RE: A win for open access to building codes

So apperantly you consider yourself adequately compensated. In which case not exactly 100% a volunteer, nor are you totally exploited, if you are duly compensated in an acceptable manner, and your industry is contributing. That's all good then.

So now what about your employer? I would think your employer also believes that their expense is worth it too. At least I hope so. I would also think we can squeeze out a few more bucks from their collective group so that we can all have unfettered access to those few codes and standards that are incorporated into law of the land, or are those laws somehow only for their benefit? If it was only for their benefit alone, then they should write these documents up as a set of company standards and restrict access accordingly, as would be their right. If some lobbiests then submit them to Congress and they, or parts thereof somehow become law of the land, guess what? They become open source public documents. Copywrite forfitted for the benefit of the public,

Seriously, if I were on the committee, I would start up that YT channel and give the reasoning behind as much of the code as I could. That's what we hardly ever see and That's what we all want to know. Usually we only get some pretty bland and often inadequate interpretations now and again. The codes would be far easier to follow them to the letter when we have to, or better understand when and how we have to exercise engineering judgement when our specific cases make code unapplicable at times, if we understood why they say what they say and sometimes, don't say what they don't say.

I'm sure that you would find some DNV codes to be a very interesting read, if not downright amazing you can get them free.
BTW. An honest thanks for your committee work, but I think it would be even better if you could somehow help us all out in the process.

MillR, yes, a subscription for everything. Get your name on all of them.
The more access is restricted, the better control these industries can keep on us and their competition. Want to start an engineering company? Just throw down several thousand per desk to each standard org you deal with.

--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

RE: A win for open access to building codes

The majority of the money goes to lobbyists to get laws to obligate the purchase. Many MIL standards were parted out to lobbyists who charge for previously free versions. One drive for regulatory standards is that participation means early access, ahead of competitors who may have a huge time and development hurdle to overcome. It also burdens smaller firms as they don't have the resources to manage all the changes, lowering their ability to compete.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

1503-44, many committees prohibit members exposing the proceedings.

RE: A win for open access to building codes

Yes, exactly. Keep the competition in the dark for as long as possible. They have to innovate a solution, only to later find out their item doesn't meet the newly issued standard that has been in the works for the last 5 years, which now they can't make, as it is a newly patented item, which also just happens to be legally required.

3DDave, yes, I know. Its even darker that way.

--Einstein gave the same test to students every year. When asked why he would do something like that, "Because the answers had changed."

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