County Comment: Homebuilders, County Train on New Building Codes

County Comment
Homebuilders, County Train on New Building Codes
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

Washington County's Department of Permits and Inspections and the Home Builders Association of Washington County (HBAWC) have formed a partnership to make members of the building industry aware of changes in building codes and inspections procedures used in the county.
About 70 representatives of the building industry, code inspectors, and code officials gathered at Richardson's Restaurant in Hagerstown on August 18 for the International Residential Code (IRC) seminar. The seminar was sponsored by HBAWC, and the training seminar was conducted by staff of the Permits and Inspections office.
Following a Public Hearing on July 12, Washington County's Board of County Commissioners formally adopted updates or changes to the system of inspection codes that the County enforces to ensure that homes and businesses are constructed to national standards for safety and livability. The 2003 International Building Code (IBC) and 2003 International Residential Code (IRC) replaced the BOCA National Building Codes that had been in use since the middle of the 1990's. Updated codes were adopted for the International Mechanical Code, the National Electrical Code and International Plumbing Code at that time.
The IRC training introduced builders to the new code and helped them prepare for changes in their construction methods that might be needed to comply with the code.
P&I Director Dan DiVito and Deputy Director Angela Smith also briefed industry members on technology advances and how changes in the permit application process are expected to improve speed and efficiency in the department, and how the IRC will impact on the plan review process, building inspections, plumbing inspections, mechanical inspections and electrical inspections.
Other sessions are planned over the transition period, to minimize disruption in the permitting and inspection process. HBAWC's Executive Director Debi Turpin, who welcomed participants to the seminar, requested the grace period to allow members of the industry time to become familiar with the changes.
P&I Chief Plan Reviewer Kelly Vantz spearheaded a team of experts from the community that reviewed the code changes and suggested amendments to the codes based on local needs. That team, Engineer Dan Matonak, Architect Norman Morin, City of Hagerstown Engineer Mike Heyser, and Tim Fields, President of the Home Builders Association, P&I Chief Inspector Rob Smith, and Zoning Coordinator Kathy Kroboth devoted at least 4 hours per week over a 6-month period to the process, which resulted in the approval of the code changes. That team's work was honored by the Commissioners in ceremonies on August 23.
HBAWC Executive Director Debi Turpin said that the follow-up training sessions will begin in September and continue every three months. Turpin said, "It is crucial that the industry and County government cooperate in areas that directly affect the industry, to facilitate timely delivery of its products to, its customers. We are pleased that the Permits and Inspections Department realizes this and is willing to work with the HBAWC and the industry."
P&I Director Dan DiVito called the joint effort, "The first step to providing better services by opening and maintaining lines of communications between county government and the builders. We all share a common goal and plan to continue this process on a regular basis"
Need for the code review was one of the suggestions that came from the continuous improvement process " Kaizen Event" held in 2004 in the Permits and Inspections Department. Recommendations from that process have improved the department's ability to cope with the record number of building permits filed during the current housing boom.