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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 15:34

State construction code reforms awaits Senate vote

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MICHIGAN — A new bill could change how often Michigan revises its construction codes, and proponents say that could translate into savings for businesses and more consistency in the regulations.

The state construction codes reform, House Bill 4561, is currently waiting its day in the Senate. Having passed the house in a 68-to-39 Republican majority vote on Dec. 1, the bill now awaits review by the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.

In essence, the bill would give the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) a longer timeline in which it would be required to update the state’s construction codes. Currenly, state law requires LARA to update the codes “not less than once every three years.” The legislation would change the wording to not less than once every six years or more than once every three years.

The Coalition for Fair Energy Codes, the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan all support the bill. Proponents argue that updating codes on a three-year cycle is expensive and that updated code books that must be purchased don’t contain many important changes from prior years.

Lee Schwartz, executive VP for government relations at the Michigan Association of Home Builders, said the bill would help put Michigan on a flexible code cycle.

“Thirty-six other states operate this way,” he said. “It just makes sense.”

Schwartz said by adopting this bill, costly mandates for state regulators to update the codes would be reduced. He said the cost for purchasing new codebooks for Michigan’s 2009 code cycle was $13 million – an “unnecessary” expense. According to the legislative analysis, the bill would only “marginally” reduce expenditures for LARA’s Bureau of Construction Codes — the only real financial impact to LARA.

Chris Fischer, president of The Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, said ABC has cautiously supported the bill and noted that there are a number of amendments that alleviate some concerns. One such concern is the mandate of emerging technologies and safety updates. Under the new policy, building officials will be able to assess the implementation of new materials and safety measures as situations arise.

Opponents argue there could be too much slack in the building code system because of less frequent updates. Manufacturers worry that any new and better materials they make could be overlooked by builders because code books wouldn’t reflect those options as they emerge.

Read 4092 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 13:48