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Our Individual States and Residential Code

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I'm sitting in a seminar as I type - listening to the Chief of Inspections for the state of Virginia. Similar to Doug Hansen's feeling, this speaker said in jest, "Those who assume that the code was formed by those with good sense, probably don't have any. A lot of it is about money."

Every state is different, but I'm surprised to learn several things:

1. In the state of Virginia, a violation of the code is a "Criminal Offense"

2. The holder of the permit is not violator, but rather the one actually performing the work

3. The state statute of limitations for violations of code is two years.

In other words, even though Builders Home Warranty is only one year, a code violation can be pursued for two.

4. Driveways and walkways are not a part of the building code.

5. Any... ANY modification or repair to ANY structural component of a building requires a building permit and inspections and building inspectors are encouraged to locate "work without a permit" situations in their travels. To perform such work without the proper permits and inspection is a criminal offense. The building inspector can, by phone, wave that requirement, but it is at the discretion of the building department.

6. The cable guy has to apply for a permit if he drills through a firewall. (uh, huh...)

7. Virginia has what's known as the Virginia State Wide Uniform Building Code which references, but supersedes the IRC. For instance, sprinkler systems in residential homes is exempt due to excessive cost. The state encourages sprinkler systems, but does not require them. Farm buildings are exempted from the Virginia State Wide Uniform Building Code, including many wineries, yet if there is a residential "space" incorporated within that structure, the residential "space", only, must comply with building codes (politics...).

8. 2012 code may require 5/8" drywall on the underside of floor framing in crawlspaces, due to pressure from the firefighting industry's experience with the flammability of TJIs.

9. Fight between DOE (3" continuous foam insulation on the exterior plus 5" cavity insulation) and NHBA (6" cavity insulation). Either way; R19 - R20 walls is coming in the next code cycle.

10. According to an overview by this speaker regarding the Residential Energy Code Requirements on the horizon, which are driven by the DOE, the goal is that ALL commercial buildings will be off the grid by 2030 and ALL new residential homes will be off the grid by 2050! (This guy isn't an advocate of what's coming. He's more warning that this is what's coming. Holy Maceral!!....

Interesting stuff...

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I can see how the code forming committees would be tasked with striking a balance between safety and the expense of providing that safety. They won't be able to sell it to the states if the homebuying public revolts against the cost of complying with it.


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Interesting side note: The speaker told a story about a framed home that was completely stocked with drywall on all three floors. A building inspector is not legally able to prohibit such a practice, because safety is a matter of the department of labor, but the inspector warned that some form of lateral bracing should be installed immediately. (the drywall installed on the lower levels would have provided the needed lateral bracing). The framed house collapsed within hours of the warning.

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Out of curiosity ... who sponsored or put on the talk? I'm assuming a local or state code official, but was it set up by the 'building officials organization' for VA?

No, Nolan, it was actually sponsored by our own Virginia Association of Real Estate Inspectors, which has defeated state licenser of home inspectors for ten years running. The system here works well, with no one complaining - not home sellers or buyers, Realtors, inspectors or the government. I suppose that's why there's been no real pressure for change. ASHI, NAHI and a voluntary state certification system have been enough.

The Chief Building Inspector has been our guest two years in a row, and thoroughly enjoys our questions along with the opportunity to tell us what's what, and what's coming.

The other guests were: our lobbyist, who is instrumental in keeping things as they are, and a speaker on the science of crawlspace ventilation, who was also pretty interesting. The crawlspace speaker was one of several fellows involved in the results found on http://www.crawlspaces.org

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