Michigan Playing A Major Role In 2018 Edition Of National Model I-Codes
by Lee Schwartz, Executive Vice President for Government
Relations, Home Builders Association of Michigan
This is the hearing hall at 12:41 AM Friday morning October 21, 2016 at the International Code Council’s Public Comment Hearings. Only 15 validated governmental voters are present to decide the contents of 2018 Energy Code, a code which will affect 320 million people. At the mike testifying in support of a reasonable, rationale cost-effective code is Don Surrena from the NAHB’s Construction Codes and Standards Department.

When the International Code Council (ICC) was formed, building officials and inspectors were intended to have the last say on the content of the codes. But didn’t work out as intended.

As each three-year code cycle went by, manufacturers and other special interests began submitting more and more proposed changes, changes that weren’t intended to provide minimum safeguards for families but rather to achieve their own goals, often financial in nature. Hearings got longer and more expensive. Fewer and fewer building officials and inspectors could afford the time and cost of attending lengthy hearings and their place was taken by representatives from state and local energy offices, environmental sustainability councils and fire services. As the photo shows, at times as few as 15 voters were making decisions affecting 320 million people. The end result were model codes slanted toward manufacturers and special interests needs, not Michigan families.

Aware of the need to bring more building officials and inspectors back into the process, the ICC created its new cdpACCESS program that allows governmental representatives to vote by computer without having to take two weeks to attend the hearings.

With the help of local HBAs from across the state and their members, HBAM spent six weeks in August and September conducting an outreach program to reinvolve Michigan code officials in the lCC’s national model code promulgation process with the goal of helping create a more balanced, less manufacturer-driven code. Twenty-nine meetings with building department personnel, including four with regional code official associations, were held all across both peninsulas to explain the new process and to encourage building department participation. The results were gratifying.

Michigan had the fourth highest number of governmental voters from building departments in the county signed up to vote at 231 validated building officials, behind only Virginia at 328, California at 327 and Texas at 238. These Michigan voters represented 5.6% of the total national number of voters from building departments and 4% of all governmental voters nationally. The state also had 43 validated fire officials but no validated energy officials. On the national level NAHB reported 4,247 building officials were validated (71% of total voters) while 1,624 fire officials (27.1% of total voters) and 110 energy officials (1.9% of total voters) were signed up.

Coincidentally enough, on-line voting began on Election Day and continued through Sunday, November 27th. With more than 2,000 proposed changes on the ballot, HBAM concentrated its efforts on 120 critical changes, including 20 in the energy code alone. As of the time this is being written, the ICC has not yet released the results of the voting. The ICC has a certification process for each vote. Many of these 2,000+ proposals covered the same section of the codes. Staff has to assure there are no conflicts between approved proposals. All this takes time and so we don’t expect to see any results until mid-December or later.

While a lot of other HBAs around the country and their members sat on the sidelines, we can all take great pride in the fact that, no matter the outcome on the individual proposals, in Michigan we were engaged when it mattered the most and that, we made a difference. l