Maryland chapters contribute to state adoption of the International Codes
Two chapters of the International Code Council – the Maryland Building Officials Association (MBOA) and the Maryland Plumbing and Mechanical Inspectors Association (MPMIA) – played instrumental roles in the state’s recent adoption of the 2018 International Plumbing Code (IPC) and the 2018 International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC), helping to solidify consistency in codes and code usage throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
When the adoption of the 2018 IPC and IFGC went into effect at the end of December 2019, Maryland joined its neighbors — Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania — as regional jurisdictions that have adopted the two codes. Maryland’s law related to building codes, called the Maryland Building Performance Standards, already incorporates the International Building Code, International Residential Code and International Energy Conservation Code.
The MBOA and MPMIA chapters actively supported the adoption of the IPC and IFGC as a way to bring greater uniformity to the design, construction and inspection of commercial and residential buildings across the state. The momentum for adopting the IPC and IFGC at the state level had been building for many years, said International Code Council Immediate Past President William Bryant, but the tipping point was the increasing number of local jurisdictions that were deciding to adopt the International Codes on their own. For example, Anne Arundel County, where Bryant is the assistant director of inspections and permits, adopted the IPC in 2003.
“We basically had to get the state plumbing board to believe that switching over to the IPC was a very good idea,” Bryant explained. “We did a lot of education and outreach through the MPMIA and MBOA membership to accomplish that. We were able to show them how it made it easier for everyone when you have a coordinated system of codes and regulations that will be uniform throughout the state.”
“Each individual jurisdiction is allowed to make their own amendments to the codes, of course, but it gives you a base document in which 90 percent of the standards are going to be the same,” Bryant said. “Economically, that’s good for lots of people. Consider a plumber in my county who might have a job in another county a hundred miles away, the concepts and the restraints are going to be the same as in his home county. From a builder’s standpoint, the International Residential Code is like a cookbook. They can do their plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas all out of one codebook.”
MBOA Past President William Funk said that his organization and others had supported several unsuccessful efforts to get the state legislature to adopt the IPC and IFGC before deciding to work directly with the Maryland State Board of Plumbing on passage instead. Funk said that their arguments were made easier by the fact that, by 2018, fully two-thirds of the state’s population lived in jurisdictions that followed the IPC.
“It makes our job as code officials easier when you have codes that communicate with each other and don’t conflict with each other,” Funk said. “The construction industry just wanted consistency, they wanted to know what to expect when they came into the counties and the state.”
By way of example, Funk recalls how, years ago, a builder based in New Jersey submitted plans for a casino to be built in Cecil County, where Funk is the chief of the permits and inspection division. At the time, the county – like the state – was following the National Standard Plumbing Code.
“They designed their plans to the IPC,” Funk said. “So I had to send their plans back to them to be redrawn or re-engineered simply because they were designed to their own code. You can imagine the impact of that kind of thing happening all the time, all across the state, on all these different projects.”
Another problem, said MPMIA Vice President Larry Schuyler, was that plumbing and fuel gas codes were inconsistent not only between jurisdictions but sometimes within them as well. For example, Talbot County — where Schuyler is the building, inspection and codes compliance officer — followed the National Standard Plumbing Code, while the county seat, Easton, had already adopted the IPC many years earlier.
“So right there you have a conflict of codes within our own county, which I never really understood,” Schuyler said. “For years, I asked, ‘How can we simplify this for not only inspectors but for the trades as well?'”
As a result of all those factors, the Maryland State Board of Plumbing voted in August 2018 to adopt the IPC and IFGC as the state standards. It took a little over a year to introduce, review and adopt several amendments to the codes, but eventually, the codes were ready to go into effect on Dec. 30, 2019.
“It was great to get this taken care of,” Schuyler said. “The Maryland State Board of Plumbing has been also to work with on this process. Something like this can’t happen unless everybody’s pulling in the same direction.”
MBOA President Don Mock said that designers, developers and inspectors will benefit greatly from having all the state’s players operating from the same playbook. “Since the codes go through the same development process and they’re coordinated by the same group, they mesh together better,” Mock said. “There are some minor differences between the IPC and the National Standard Plumbing Code that the jurisdictions will have to adjust to, but I think that overall it will make things easier on the designers and the developers out there.”
Mock said that the adoption of the IPC and IFGC could also encourage national and international retail firms to open up more stores in Maryland since they will no longer have to bear the time and cost burdens of customizing their standardized plans to meet a different set of code requirements.
“It was difficult on designers to have to go back and rework their drawings,” Mock said. “It definitely put more work on designers that I’m sure weren’t anticipating when they came to Maryland. Now with it being all under the one family of codes, it will make it easier on them.”
“It was very important for Maryland building officials that we get our codes more coordinated,” Mock added. “By having the state adopting the IPC and IFGC, I think that we’ve achieved that.”
As they have since the effort began to adopt the IPC and IFGC, the Code Council, MPMIA, MBOA, and the Maryland Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association (MPHCC) will continue working with the Maryland State Board of Plumbing to educate and train plumbing, mechanical, and fuel gas contractors and regulators on the provisions of the newly adopted International Codes. And for the second year, the Code Council will be teaming with MPHCC to provide training at its upcoming annual Industry Trade Show.
“It’s been a very long process from start to finish to get these codes adopted,” Bryant said. “Over time, jurisdictions throughout the state, and the state itself, adopted the International Residential Code, the International Building Code and the International Mechanical Code. And now we’ve adopted the IPC and the IFGC, and finally everything is consistent. These codes all work together as part of a concerted effort to build safe, quality buildings across the state of Maryland.”