Hart column: The changing of the code: New guidelines take effect

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 30, 2012

By Dana Hart
For the Salisbury Post
About every three years or so, the N.C. Building Code is updated. This usually causes much consternation among the few people in the population that follow such things. For the most part all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth is a little excessive because the changes are usually not so great as to cause a well-informed and established builder much discomfort.
The N.C. State Building Code was once written by the N.C. Building Inspectors Association. At some point we adopted a model code that was used in other states, but we made changes to that code and removed pages and inserted our own pages of a different color to make those changes obvious. Now, North Carolina has chosen to adopt the ICC Code, but we still make changes. ICC stands for International Code Council. International in this case is really a misnomer. International in this context doesn’t really mean between or among nations, but rather it should be called the Interstate Building Code. It is becoming accepted and adopted throughout the United States. Some states adopt it outright and some states like North Carolina want to tweak it, and then ICC prints it out with our changes but with no colored pages. They used to print loose-leaf books but have now gone to hardbound and CD versions only.
Back when North Carolina was in the code writing business they wrote an Accessibility Code book (Handicap Accessibility) that was adopted by quite a few other states. It had a good reputation, even better than ADA (Americans with Disability Act) in some circles. Odd as it might seem, North Carolina has adopted the ICC/ANSI version of the Accessibility Code and abandoned their own brainchild. Even odder still, some states still use the N.C. Accessibility Code. It was a good code and we’ll miss it.
So what are all the big changes that have so many people talking? Well, in a nut shell most of the changes have to do with energy conservation. There is a lot of talk of air infiltration barriers and low “e” glass. The average house has so many cracks and holes in it that it is equivalent to having a window open all the time. The average power plant in a big city burns a mile-and-a-half-long train full of coal every eight hours to supply people with electricity. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is a coating made from silver that is applied to the outside of windows to block sunlight that would normally warm your house. Proponents of solar heating must have a hard time getting behind this concept.
Whether the changes to the Building Code are good or not, and whether they make sense or not, are not really for me to say. My department and I are bound by the N.C. General Statutes to enforce the code, and we’re here should anyone need us to help them navigate the changes. The new Residential Code, the new Energy Conservation Code and the new Accessibility Code took effect March 1. The balance of the codes which include the Building (Commercial Building Code), Mechanical (Heating and Air), Plumbing, and Fuel Gas will take effect June 1. I’m told the Rowan County Library has code books in their reference section, and you can go to ICC’s website and look at the books online. We’re here to help should you need us.