Council hears about updated building codes
In a monumental effort, city of Yuma building safety officials with the help of two advisory boards have developed five new building codes, including a code that for the first time establishes energy conservation standards.
The new codes were presented to the Yuma City Council during its work session Tuesday evening. They will then come before the council during introduction of ordinances on Feb. 20 and for adoption on March 6.
They include the building code that sets standards for commercial development, existing building code that revises standards for changes to existing properties, property management code that adds criteria to help inspectors and code enforcers determine whether a building is safe, the residential code that governs all facets of the construction of single-family homes and a new energy conservation code for commercial development.
With the possible exception of the property management code, the new standards apply only to new construction and would not impact existing buildings.
All but the energy code are slated to go into effect on July 1. The new energy conservation code will be implemented on Dec. 1, providing time to train and educate contractors and designers and to allow them to use up their existing inventory.
“It's a new code,” said city building official Randy Crist. “We wanted to give them plenty of time.”
Crist noted that Yuma is the largest municipality in Arizona that does not have an energy code.
“It addresses things that would be hard to add to a finished building,” he said. They include such items as insulation, energy efficient windows and non-leaking duct work — one of the biggest losses of energy. The code focuses on the energy conservation of the building and systems, not on renewable energy.
A number of contractors already are complying with the standards, he told the council.
Developing the new codes has been a yearlong, arduous process, Crist said, one that was particularly tough as it involved updating five at one time that typically would have been spread out over a few years.
He explained that the city tries to adopt new building codes every six years, but in 2009, the state placed a moratorium on updates because of the struggling economy that sunsetted last year.
So the most recent city building codes were from 2003. Updated codes are modeled after the International Building Code developed every three by the International Code Council.
In a nod to contractors, though, the city modeled its new codes after the 2009 International Building Code rather than the more recent 2012 one to help phase in new requirements.
“I'm very aware of how fragile the economy still is,” Crist said.
He had high praise for the hard work and commitment by the city's Building Advisory Board, chaired by structural engineer Rob Campbell, and Residential Advisory Board, chaired by home builder Fowler Malone.
Leafing through a thick notebook plastered with yellow Post-it notes, Crist said he and Alan Kircher, deputy building official, presented the codes “chapter by chapter and page by page. The boards sat through the presentations and debated them. They offered a lot of good input. I have a lot of respect for them. They never wavered ... they got through it.”
Some of the major code changes included adding a section for dual-use structures such as the shopkeepers, adopting post-9/11 standards for taller buildings, making the existing building code easier to use, adding criteria to take the guesswork out of code enforcement, increasing the fire separation distance for single-family homes and requiring carbon monoxide detectors in homes with attached garages.
Crist said the city will provide training on the new codes both during business hours and evenings for the convenience of contractors and designers.