The Value of Mechanical Code Knowledge

August 6, 2007
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Tennyson Barry, Michigan chief mechanical inspector, talks about knowing mechanical codes during the ARI Workshop at FSU.

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - Having a broad knowledge of mechanical codes and the nuances of the code system is a key ingredient to proper system design. It is certainly a way to head off future problems when questions arise about a building’s HVAC system. Mechanical code knowledge was one of the topics discussed by Tennyson Barry, Michigan chief mechanical inspector, to an audience of educators at the recent Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) Regional Workshop at Ferris State University.

Barry began his presentation by saying, “You need to be able to mesh the code side of the business with the textbook side of the business. Codes need to be an integral part of planning and design.”

He told attendees that many of their students may become accomplished designers and engineers, but in doing so they need to familiarize themselves with mechanical codes. Barry said educators should play a role in bringing inspectors into the classrooms to talk about codes.

“Get involved with the code official in your jurisdiction,” he said.

Barry gave an example of how one recent code change has an impact on system design and which trade is actually responsible for the design. He noted the push for a code requiring sprinkler systems in all one- and two-story residential buildings. “The problem here is a question of who actually installs the sprinkler systems,” he said. “In Michigan, it is the responsibility of the mechanical contractor and not the plumber.”

One instructor asked a related question about whose responsibility it was for wiring a thermostat - the HVAC installer or an electrician? Barry said there could be exceptions to codes, which would allow an HVAC installer to do the wiring, but he suggested that contractors contact their local inspectors for code clarifications.

He added there is a lot of information on codes available from the International Code Council (ICC) at www.iccsafe.org. Barry said that ICC books are available to schools for discounted rates.

Ultimately, the responsibility for adhering to mechanical codes lies with the business owner, in this case the HVAC contractor. “Liability belongs with the boss,” Barry said. “Even if he is doing work to code but his employees aren’t and he is not monitoring their work, he is responsible for the consequences.”

Publication date: 08/06/2007

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