Code watch: Bath-enclosure specifications draft to be ready in spring
Officials at the Standards Subcommittee of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association of Topeka, Kan., are working to finish the first draft of the Voluntary Specifications for Shower Enclosures by early spring. The specifications will eventually determine how shower enclosures are constructed and installed, says Chris Birch, BEMA executive director.
“The need for meaningful consensus standards has been made even more imperative by the continued growth of the bath enclosure [market] and the growing number of product failures being reported,” Birch says. “As most of you know, there are a staggering number of enclosures manufactured every day by firms with little regard for quality or safety. Poorly designed, constructed and installed bath enclosures will inevitably lead to the diminished use of our products, and BEMA members are committed to seeing that doesn’t happen.”
The initial draft specification will be reviewed by industry experts before a consensus completed draft is put together. After distributing it to the membership, the Standards Subcommittee will solicit member comments and the revised specification will be mailed to the membership for vote. Once approved by the BEMA membership, the specification will be sent to the entire industry for review and comment before it is submitted to ASTM International for adoption as a consensus standard.
“Several members have been asked to review specific sections of the specification and have been pleasantly surprised at the thoroughness of the document,” says John Veras, BEMA president and Standards Subcommittee chair. “The standards-writing organizations and the building-code community are aware of our efforts and await our submission.”
The mere idea of unpublished specifications has created a buzz within the industry, Birch says, “and I find myself answering all kinds of questions, like ‘What do these specifications mean for the industry?’ or ‘How will these specifications affect my products?’ For those that question the need, just be reminded that there are others out there anxious to regulate our products if BEMA fails to step up to the plate.”
These “anxious” parties include the Americas Glass Association of Placerville, formerly the California Glass Association.
BEMA officials worry that AGA members contemplate code changes that would adversely affect the industry, Veras says. “It is imperative that we as an association develop, implement and abide by consensus industry standards,” he says. “BEMA recognizes all the hard work the [AGA] has put forth in the formation of codes governing shower enclosures.”
Mark Rowlett, national sales manager of Coastal Industries Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., agrees. “It is very important that there is an organized effort to institute these standards from an organization that understands the bath-enclosure business,” he says. “There are presently efforts to set regulations in place that might not be fair and consistent. BEMA [leaders are] attempting to set ‘voluntary’ standards for all industry members to abide by. BEMA wants to be sure above all to protect the public and ensure that bath enclosures are designed and installed in a safe manner.”
Members of the AGA, however, are less than happy with the BEMA specifications. “We have reviewed the BEMA specs,” says Donn Harter, president and technical director of AGA. “We have found them woefully short of what we are presenting to the ICC [International Code Council].”
The AGA has been working on ICC amendments for shower enclosures for more than two years, Harter says. “This precedes BEMA emergence into this area for well over a year. Our task group has been made up of 38 industry participants including shower-door manufacturers, testing labs, glazing contractors, building officials, hinge manufacturers and temperers from across the United States,” he says.
BEMA had been invited to participate in this task group, Harter says. “After a couple of meetings, they decided to go on their own. It seemed our proposals were too restrictive.” AGA’s code-proposal amendments to ICC were initiated by local building-code jurisdictions, because the IBC [International Building Council] had no such provisions, he says. “Consequently, we have finished these amendments for the ICC, with voluntary test standards to substantiate our amendments. Our amendments and standards far exceed those of BEMA.”
AGA members’ interests are in preserving public safety and a means for building inspectors to ensure that these measures are met, Harter insists. “We listened to the complaints that building officials and installers had with the designs of frameless shower enclosures that presented excessive deflection from oversize panels,” he says. “We have proved that these deflections lead to hinge and bracket failures. Our test standards support the limitations that we have built into our code amendments. BEMA’s ‘Voluntary Specifications’ do not take these critical factors into consideration.”
Birch disagrees. “After speaking with several industry leaders and the Glazing Industry Code Committee, it became apparent this was not a code issue but rather a standards issue. We will continue to develop our specifications in a standards format with the understanding that ASTM can approve them upon completion,” he says.
“BEMA always has been and will continue to be the voice of the industry,” Veras says. “It is important that we as the industry dictate how our products will be used and not allow code officials, government agencies or regional groups to speak for our business.”
Standards and codes
Overview of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Alliance standards
• Following are the categories of the standards:
• Frameless sliding shower enclosures
• Fully framed sliding shower enclosures
• Hinged fully framed shower enclosures
• Hinged semi-frameless shower enclosures
• Heavy glass frameless enclosures
• Sloped or glass steam roof
• Spontaneous breakage
The standards encompass:
Sliding door, frameless and fully framed, requirements for top rolling wheels, anti-jump devices on top wheel area, guides to secure sliding panels and true walk in yields.
Hinged fully framed and semi-frameless doors, requirements as far as pivot hinges, side hinges or continuous piano hinges. How the door will be safely sealed for water retention and to protect hinging glass from striking an object.
Heavy frameless glass hinged door, requirements for thickness of glass and how to fasten or clamp the door and stationary panels. Hinging via pivot, wall or glass to glass.
Guidelines for swing direction, notched panel requirements and requirements for operable or stationary transoms.
Guidelines for sloped or flat-glass roofs
Guides for spontaneous breakage of tempered glass.
Standards to be set for all the above layouts as far as weight load of the glass, the through-the-glass handles, towel bars or knobs and compliance with American National Standards Institute and Safety Glazing Certification Council certification guides for tempered safety glass.
Overview of Americas Glass Association’s proposed codes
Following are the categories for shower enclosures:
• Structural framing
• Jumping retainers
• Towel bars and handles
• Hinged doors
• Steam or canopied enclosures
For frameless light glass shower enclosures
• Frameless light hinging and sliding shower doors
• Size limitation
For frameless heavy glass shower enclosures
• Hinged shower doors and stationary panels
• Recommended clearances
• Size limitation
• Mechanical fastening hardware
Each category contains numerous specifics. For example, consider the following:
“2410.3.2 Recommended Clearances. Clearance between a door and panel or door and wall shall be no less than 1⁄8 inch (3.2 millimeters). Clearance at the bottom of the door shall be no less than 3⁄16 inch (5 millimeters) between the exposed glass edge and the curb or threshold.”
The document can be found at www.caglassassociation.org.