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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1117
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 02:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

Here we go again! For years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s [my time as Building Code official] there was a constant call for a “national” building code-- one code that covered the entire United States. Didn’t happen! And realistically CAN’T happen! And more importantly, should never happen!!!

Why not? Simply, how many federal laws exist now that go un-enforced, or under-enforced to the determent of the condition, the process, and the general public? The safe glazing act of a few years ago was a good example-- all law, no enforcement, initially! But both in construction and other aspects of life we have the same silly situation-- a law, of some volume, but with little “punch” and hence rendered virtually useless! Laws, particularly at the federal level, are too often grandstanding plays to “do something that looks productive and meaningful” and is about as valuable as an empty eggshell! Previous construction-related federal mandates, but with no transfer or formation of enforcement power, much less any funding, are laws that just laid there until the building codes [the 3 model codes at the time] finally picked up on them and wrote them in.

Classic example was the energy conservation code circa 1978. The states had to have such law in place by January or lose federal funding. So the states [Ohio as “great” example] passed the law and building code mandate on December 31st with no funding for implementation, education, training, explanation, etc., BUT did include a $5000 fine and jail term for code officials who did not enforce it!! [but it was at the same level, and easily “distributed” down to the counties and cities for localized non-action.] To that add ALL of the other efforts [usually rising out of some disaster or crisis] in similar fashion up to and including the latest call for a “federal building code” to address global warming and climate control.

This would be a massive volume or legal glop and over-regulation with suitable accommodations for the seismic conditions out west, the hurricanes down south and the crowded, fire-hazard close-in building of the northeast [the very distinction between the old model codes]. But here we would see another TSA [the airport security people] established to provide national building inspectors [picture that!]. Job creation, maybe, but confusion, misuse, corruption [always a problem even locally], misapplication of the code and lack of uniformity-- plus a massive number of people to re-train and attempt to get on the same page. And still the renegade states to contend with and attempts to bring into alignment!

Uh! Too! Haven’t we all just settled in with the quite astute International “family” of codes [IBC, etc.] and adjusted our specifications work to meet those regional nuances of conditions, variations, and system of dynamics? And then, how easy and proper is it to try to control the whole of the country with one set of regulations, that hopefully address “very” condition, despite their wide variance? Uhhhh! Messy!

Cannot phantom why the feds mention such a code, except to jump to and a gain a political “brownie” point. There is no described need, per se, and certainly stupidity will still be able to overcome, the best and highest sitting code, to foster disasters and unnecessarily take lives. Of course, too there are still local jurisdictions that lag, continually in regard to building codes. But the mere fact that the code is “federal” will not remedy that [see discussion of energy code above]. Minimal standards for climate change and global warming surely can be adequately addressed by proper accommodation within the minimal existing standards of the energy conservation code, plus expanded adoption, use and inspection of same! Say like subsidizing the enforcement!

Every crisis that arrives in the feral bureaucracy is not fodder for a federal law and code. Nor for the propensity to “cave man” things [i.e., re-creating the round, functioning wheel out of a square shape!] Federal strength and intelligence [that by the way is more bi-partisan and universal than partisan] properly administered is fine, to get everyone acting and acting in a similar manner. OK to go there, but please, don’t tell us to inspect fully completed walls for proper isulation like was made part of the early energy conservation code!!! Can we be intelligent in how we do things as well in what we do? Remember every situation has THREE sides-- one way! second way! and the truth!

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