County commission approves stringent building codes

By Steve McConnell
Staff Writer
Posted 7/10/07

The Baldwin County Commission approved a more stringent building code standard for unincorporated areas and the municipalities of Elberta and Magnolia Springs. 

The July 3 unanimous vote will require residential and commercial builders, and …

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County commission approves stringent building codes

Posted

The Baldwin County Commission approved a more stringent building code standard for unincorporated areas and the municipalities of Elberta and Magnolia Springs. 

The July 3 unanimous vote will require residential and commercial builders, and those who wish to improve their existing dwellings with additions or renovations, to adhere to the 2006 International Building Code, a set of building and design criteria that has been enacted in 50 states, according to the International Code Council’s website.

"I-Code adoptions in all 50 states make building design, construction and code enforcement easier for the entire building industry," said International Code Council President Wally Bailey in a press release.  "Consumers are the big winners. The economic benefits of building to the latest codes can include improved safety, reduced maintenance costs, energy savings and lower insurance premiums."

Municipal and county officials have said that by not adopting this latest code series homeowners insurance premiums could be effected since new construction, under less stringent building requirements, would be susceptible to hurricane-strength winds thereby increasing insurers risk assessment for the county. 

The commission’s decision, which will go into effect Sept. 1, rescinds the 2003 international codes that builders were required to follow in order to receive permits and successfully pass inspections from the county. 

The new standard also includes an updated 2006 gas, mechanical, plumbing and residential code, along with a Baldwin County Supplement code for residential structures, according to information obtained from Baldwin County Building Official Mike Howell. 

A public hearing was held in June to allow a comment period for those who may or may not agree with the county’s decision, but only two people expressed discontent, mainly with the supplement section. 

At the hearing, Howell said that “if we don’t do something to eliminate the risk of damage in Baldwin County, we are not going to have any insurance” in response to an attorney representing United Roofing Manufacturing, Mike Smith, who was troubled with the county banning asphalt felt roofing underlayment, a United Roofing product. 

The supplemental code calls for synthetic tear resistant underlayment – the material laid beneath shingles - that Howell said exceeds asphalt underlayment in preventing water intrusion. 

“My full intent is to do what I can to keep the water out of the houses when a hurricane comes,” he said, adding that he followed some recommendations from the insurance industry since failed building products, such as the asphalt underlayment, created instances of $160,000 of water intrusion damages. 

“We’re under a huge issue with insurance in Baldwin County,” he said to Smith’s contention that “you’re taking away choice.”