5 Minutes to Better Codes

Filed in Codes and Standards by on October 28, 2016 5 Comments

What can a builder do to keep building codes affordable?

alarm clockIt turns out we can do a lot. And it’s not a particularly heavy lift: five minutes this week, maybe five minutes the week after that.

There are about 6,000 building, energy and fire code officials in the country who are eligible to vote online on proposals that together will result in the 2018 building codes.

Most of these voters are interested in creating a positive environment for home building. They know that building creates jobs, shores up the tax base, and enables families who live in substandard housing to move into homes that are safer, healthier and more energy efficient.

And when you realize that most of the votes are decided with margins not in the thousands, but by as few as a dozen people willing to check the box, it’s pretty clear that each vote counts.

The online voting period will begin right around Election Day, Nov. 8. Right now, elected officials’ minds might be on other things. So that gives us a little time to prepare — and be ready to take action when voting opens.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Find out who can vote. You can get a list of eligible voters in your state by contacting your NAHB Codes liaison and they will email you the list.

Pick up the phone. If you see a name on the voting list you recognize, that means they are eligible to participate in online voting. If they have never done so before — and they probably haven’t, since it’s a new process — ask them to go to the ICC registration link and follow the simple instructions so when it’s time to vote, they are set to do so.

If you want to make sure that building code changes make sense, save energy and make occupants safer without breaking the bank, and aren’t just a way to sell a specific brand of insulation or whole-house fan, you need to make sure these voters can vote.

NAHB has a voting guide that explains why we need a yes or no vote on each of the proposals we are following. On Nov. 8, you’ll need to go back to your building official and let him or her know that it’s time to fire up their computers and do this.

If they have 15 minutes, they can wrap up the job. If they honestly don’t have 15 minutes, we’ll have a list ready next week of the dozen or so most important ones and you can share it.

We need your help to keep codes affordable. Right now, that help will cost you just five minutes – and can make thousands of dollars of difference to the cost of building homes.

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Comments (5)

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  1. If builders and remodelers are any good at all they have a daily workload as heavy as the building officials still, hopefully they delegate someone else in the office to perform this important task.

  2. Martin Knezovich says:

    That’s too hard and requires thinking and effort. Just complain and blame President Obama for all those burdensome regulations.

  3. JerryS says:

    I have been a member of out local HBA’s Codes and Standards Committee for 13 years. We have been fortunate to have people on our committee who are or have been ICC committee members and active in the ICC. Although an Associate and not directly familiar with many of the issues affecting builders, I have seen what builders can do when they put their mind to it.
    Builders are up against heavy lobbying from many different directions – often times with no concern as to what the changes will cost builders and homeowners. Energy proponents want to make houses more energy efficient. Fire/Safety people want to make homes more survivable in case of fire. And, as alluded to above, insulation manufacturers want to increase the amount of insulation required. This is only the beginning.
    I’m not against saving energy or lives. But that has to also be balanced against the cost.Many people already can’t afford to buy a home; every incremental cost increase expands the size of this group. And while one cost may be relatively small, the total cost can quickly skyrocket. Builders are already seeing this, and more is on the board for this code cycle.
    I can’t stress enough how important it is for people to contact the voting code officials you know, especially those who understand what these additional costs are doing to the industry. Yes, I know you are busy – and so are the code officials. But getting their votes is the only way we will be able to counter the lobbying groups – who are also voting, and overwhelmingly support their own proposals.

  4. Scott Fulton says:

    In my international and domestic travels I see a wide range codes and architecture. Many buildings tend to be the result of a regional cultural norm vs reflective of code implications. This is more evident to my eye in the residential sector, where change is surprisingly slow. Real change tends to come from market demand vs incremental regulatory factors, and as creatures of habit, we cling to the things we have known for years, often over what is best for us long term. Codes tend to help inch us forward, but always weighed down by tremendous inertia.
    The point being that it is a choice of where to place one’s efforts, market or regulatory. Market is intended to create a pull, regulatory is by its nature a push. You can guess which is usually the more appealing and effective option.

    • JerryS says:

      Scott, the only problem is that market demand is optional. Codes are mandatory.
      For instance, you might be in an area where swimming pools are common. You have a choice – you can install swimming pools in the houses you build, or you may decide not to. Either way, you are choosing how you want to work with the market.
      But now what if a code change requires you to install swimming pools? Now they are mandatory, and you have a choice between installing swimming pools and not building at all. And if you do install swimming pools, you have left out a portion of the market that can’t afford them.
      Sound far fetched? Not really. This is already happening. Sprinkler systems in single family detached homes are now required by the IRC. Current energy standards do not allow trading off more efficient mechanical systems for lower insulation, even though the result is the same amount of energy used. The list goes on. And every one of these raises the cost of building, some with costs that won’t get recouped for 100 years or more.
      Sure, many jurisdictions have amended their codes to modify or eliminate some of the more onerous standards. But the changes keep coming. And it gets harder with each cycle to get jurisdictions to amend the codes to something more reasonable.

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