Working with Your Code Official

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As the International Code Council’s (ICC) remote voting program, cdpAccess, begins to gather steam, NAHB is encouraging all members to get to know their code officials. Norfolk, Va., Building Official and ICC board member Lynn Underwood is our guest blogger today with a few helpful tips.

building codesNow that you and the building inspector are working well together on your projects, let’s take it to the next level: code development.

Because you’ve paid attention to the documents, you now have a working knowledge of the code and can find provisions with ease.

Now, you encounter a code provision that doesn’t seem right. You question the inspector, who agrees that it doesn’t make sense.

Instead of just ignoring the issue, consider working together to make a change in the code. This change might clean up the language, add clarity, remove obtuse words or maybe just delete the whole section.

Your inspector’s boss, the Building Official, does this regularly: proposing changes to the code. This code development process is a big part of their job. But you can help.

Broach the idea with the Building Official: Explain the circumstance, cite the code section (using your code book), ask for a clarification. Does he or she agree that the meaning is either too vague or that the section is missing some crucial parts?

Here’s an example: A builder came into my office around a year ago and asked about headers for a small porch. He pointed out that a neighboring city required two 2×10 headers over posts spaced 8 foot on center for a small 6-foot porch.

That sounded unreasonable to me until I checked the code. The only provision for headers in the International Residential Code was for outside walls in a full-size house. No porch headers were addressed.

I suggested that we do something about it.

With the assistance of two engineers, both involved in code matters before, and that builder,  we fashioned a proposed code change that was passed in our state and then was changed in the 2015 IRC!  I wouldn’t have seen it without the builder bringing it to my attention.

You have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain. At the very least you will get some guidance, and maybe enlist some partnerships while improving the code.

Get more tips at nahb.org/codedevelopment. You can also contact Neil Burning for details.

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