Arp bill would ease building codes

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 05:07 PM

A House bill that would make home construction inspections uniform across the state has builders smiling but town and county officials are worried about the quality of construction.

The bill maintains the local government’s authority to inspect one- and two-family homes according to the state building code, but disallows any inspections beyond the state requirements. If a local government wants standards that exceed the state code, local officials can ask a state building code committee to approve it.

The bill would also change the three-year state building code revision cycle to a six-year cycle.

Rep. Dean Arp, R-55, is one of the bill’s primary sponsors. He said the change would help revive the state’s residential housing industry.

“I think there are really two points to it,” Arp said.

First, it will make building inspections uniform throughout the state. Some home builders were required to undergo several more local inspections in some counties than in others. The extra inspections caused delays, which hurt business, Arp said.

“But there is a mechanism if the counties wanted to do additional or different types of inspections not outlined

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in the state code,” he said. “They would just have to go before the state building code council and have those additional inspections vetted.”

While most builders favor the bill, local governments are not.

“The county is aware of the bill and has been watching it’s progress,” Union County Public Information Officer Brett Vines wrote in an email Thursday. “The N.C. Administrative Code provides a list of eight mandatory inspections and allows the county to do as many additional as is deemed necessary.”

The county inspections department performs several additional inspections in areas that have been problems in the past, he wrote. This bill would only allow additional inspections if they are approved by a state building code council. County officials do not know how this council will rule on any proposed inspections supplementing the state building code.

“There is a potential for the quality of construction to suffer,” Vines wrote. “The amount of time county inspectors spend on site during construction is directly related to the quality of the finished product.”

 The other half of the bill requires an update of the statewide codes every six years, instead of the current three-year cycle.

“The concern the county has is that the six year cycle would only apply to the Residential Building Code. All others would retain various adoption dates at three year intervals. This would result in projects being constructed under multiple editions of the various codes,” Vines wrote.

More frequent updates of the building code adapts practices to new technology and building methods. With so much time between updates, new updates will be drastically different with each new revision.

“We’re definitely opposed to it,” Monroe spokesman Pete Hovanec said. “We feel we are able to decide what is the best course of action.”

Council members are also city residents and know things about their community that a committee based two hours away in Raleigh will not, he said.

“We feel that our local elected officials should be the ones to decide the kind of inspections needed in our city,” Hovanec said.

But the state is not taking any authority away from local governments, N.C. Home Builders Association Executive Vice President Mike Carpenter said. Inspections required by the state code should be the only ones required of home builders currently. But many local governments have added their own requirements, which vary greatly from one county to another.

“We strongly support the bill,” Carpenter said. “Inspections should be uniform all over the state. Some jurisdictions are following the state code but there are many others that are exceeding the mandatory requirements.”

If more inspections are needed in a particular jurisdiction to make homes safe, they can always get approval from the state building code committee, he said.