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7-11 STAIR CODE OVERTURNED AT BOCA HEARING

7-11 STAIR CODE OVERTURNED AT BOCA HEARING
 WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Association of Home Builders issued the following:
 A move that would have increased the cost of a new home by $2,500 or more was averted last Thursday when the Building Official Code Administrators (BOCA) voted to overturn the 7-inch riser, 11-inch tread (7-11) stair geometry on residential stairways.
 In a standing vote at its 77th Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minn., BOCA voted to adopt a proposal that retains the 8 1/4-inch maximum riser and 9-inch minimum tread residential exception in its stair code when the 1993 BOCA code is published. The motion was introduced by BOCA Vice President David Smith. BOCA writes, maintains, revises and distributes a model building code that is widely used throughout the Northeast and central states.
 Last week's action effectively reverses a stair rule adopted in BOCA's 1991 code cycle that replaced the 8 1/4-inch riser, 9-inch tread geometry with a 7-11 stairway geometry on all residential construction. The only new requirement is a 1-inch nosing on stairways having solid risers, resulting in a 10-inch tread on those stairs.
 The debate on stairway geometry has centered on the issues of safety and affordability. Despite several studies over the years that failed to turn up a reliable estimate of the added safety benefits of the 7-11 rule, proponents had argued that it would reduce accidents by requiring longer stairways with a lower slope.
 Those opposing this measure noted that the added safety benefits were dubious at best, and, in some instances, compliance would actually have forced designers to sacrifice safety concerns by adding extra steps as winders to straight-run stairs.
 Upon introducing his stairway code proposal, Smith spoke for several BOCA chapters when he said, "We should lean upon our past experience, which has shown that the 8 1/4-inch, 9-inch ratio works, and should hold there until firm facts and not supposition establish a different ratio."
 The 7-11 standard also would have impacted home owners in two significant ways: higher costs and/or less living space. Requiring stairways to extend an additional 4 to 5 feet in the horizontal direction would have added 12 to 15 more square feet per floor level to the house design, thereby reducing the living space which must be used to accommodate the 7-11 stairs.
 "This can increase the total construction costs of a two-story house by as much as $3,000 over what would be required under the 8 1/4-inch, 9-inch standard," Regina Hopkins, assistant staff counsel for Habitat for Humanity International, Inc., testified during the BOCA hearings.
 The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also concluded that the safety benefits of 7-11 stair geometry are speculative at best, and may "unnecessarily raise the cost of housing."
 "We do not believe that a basis exists for requiring 7-11 geometry for purposes of safety, and we are concerned that the 7-11 requirement adds to the cost of housing without achieving a corresponding benefit," said John Weicher, assistant secretary for policy development and research at HUD.
 Before the code vote, Gerard Garofalow, president of BOCA, announced he would appoint an ad-hoc committee to further study the stair issue. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) fully supports this measure and looks forward to playing a positive role in this endeavor.
 "NAHB remains strongly committed to stair safety," said NAHB President Robert "Jay" Buchert. "But the fact remains that 7-11 greatly increases costs without improving safety."
 -0- 09/30/92
 CONTACT: Jay Shackford of the National Association of Home Builders, 202-822-0406 CO: NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS IN: CST ST: DC -- DC044 -- X741 09/30/92
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 30, 1992
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