City updates building codes, builders OK with changes

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Due to new city development and an outdated building code cycle, Building Official David Millegan and Fire Marshal Dave Wisniewski recommended the Fredericksburg City Council adopt newer building codes.

For years, the city has operated with the 2009 International Building Codes and Fire Code. Officials said this puts them three cycles back, and, in addition to being outdated, using older codes could make it more expensive for the city to purchase insurance.

“A review given to the city to be used by the Insurance Service Office was a relatively low seven out of 10,” Millegan said. “It could’ve been higher if the codes were updated. The ISO issues a rating of firefighting readiness, equipment, and adopted building codes, electrical codes and more to rate the exposure they may have when settling a claim.”

Another reason to update is upcoming permit activity in new developments, he said, with anticipated housing developments, renovations to existing properties and other projects.

Millegan said the city decided to use the 2015 codes because the newest 2018 codes were more strict.

“We’ve spoken to other cities who have updated to the 2018 codes and they’ve said they’ve had problems with them, but when we looked over the 2015 codes, they seemed more acceptable,” Millegan said.

These new codes took effect on Nov. 4, but prior to that, the city held a public meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Fire Training Room at City Hall, 126 W. Main St.

“This was basically just a public discussion to let everyone who is interested in building here know of the changes,” Millegan said.

Millegan wants people to know there may be a learning curve caused by these changes, and educating them is key.

Jeff Dulaney, project superintendent for J.M. Lowe & Company, agreed with the city’s decision to update.

“It’s important to maintain progress,” Dulaney said.

Dulaney has experience building in Fredericksburg, with projects like the Windcrest Townhomes and updates to Fredericksburg High School. He’s aware of the new development and believes the city made the right decision to update.

Rick Schafer, owner of Rick Schafer Homes, supported the city in updating the bulding codes, but hopes the city will integrate them in a way that’s considered good, sound building practice.

“If the city communicates with us, and helps us to understand how and why the codes are supposed to be implemented, then everything should be able to transition smoothly,” Schafer said.

Schafer often gets concerned about builders becoming nervous before speaking to city staff about a new project because of new or perceived excess regulation.

“It should not be that way,” Schafer said. “I believe that my city staff should be here to help me. A builder should not be afraid to speak to city staff, who should be there as an aid to the builder.”

Schafer is also worried about how increased costs of building inspections, energy inspections, sprinkler systems or additional surveys will impact the costs of housing.

“They want us to try to keep costs down to meet goals of affordable housing, but with costs of doing business continually increasing, it makes that goal just about impossible to obtain,” Schafer said.

For more information on the adoption of the new codes, call Millegan at 830-997-7521.