The benefits of adopting up-to-date codes
I’m sure most everyone spent their holiday parties discussing building codes and building inspections, right?
Okay, I’ll admit they’re not very festive topics, but they improve our lives. Let me show you how they can also help you save a few dollars.
At the Dec. 5, 2018, Oro Valley Town Council meeting, the mayor and council voted to adopt the 2018 International Building Code and the 2017 National Electrical Code. That action will help Oro Valley home and business owners save money. As the town of Oro Valley’s building official, I am pleased the mayor and council adopted these codes.
One benefit of adopting the latest building codes is the rating provided for the town by the Insurance Services Organization. ISO ratings help determine property insurance rates. After the new codes were adopted, the ISO reassessed the town’s ratings and lowered them from an eight to a four for residential and a three for commercial respectively. The lower the ISO rating, the better the rates are.
And that’s just one benefit of adopting the latest codes.
The primary benefit of building codes is life safety. We want residents to be confident that where they live, work and send their kids to school are safe environments. The same should be true of recreational facilities and restaurants. The very fact that nothing is happening — buildings aren’t collapsing or going up in flames — is a testament to the codes, as well as the town’s inspection staff who oversee everything from the foundation to the finish.
The fire department isn’t the only group that thinks about fire safety. Building inspectors do, too. We think about things like fire blocking, fire walls and the importance of a self-closing, fire-rated door that needs to be installed in the entry between your garage and your home. It’s because garages are infamous for being places where fires start and where deadly carbon monoxide from vehicles can filter into your home.
Fire safety is a huge part of the codes, and the first thought most people have about fire safety is fire sprinklers. That’s fire safety, right? But the real goal of the codes is to prevent fires from even starting. We want to do everything we can to ensure that those sprinklers never have to functionally operate.
I don’t imagine fire safety was one of the hot topics during your holiday festivities, but it’s rarely far from a building inspector’s thoughts. And really, it’s a good conversation to have. If you’re getting ready to build anything, stop by and talk to us. We’re here to help.
The first thing to do, if your project requires it, is to hire a licensed contractor, and I stress the word “licensed.” To find one, do research. Use the internet. Ask people you know. If they’ve had work done, ask them about their contractor. Chances are, if that contractor performed well for them, they’ll perform well for you.
There’s also the Registrar of Contractors, a state agency that regulates all licensed contractors. You can look up any complaints that might have been lodged against a contractor. If a contractor has a long history of complaints, you probably should avoid them.
Once you have your plans together, it’s just a matter of submitting your plans to us. This is a step that I think concerns some people. They think to themselves, “I have to come in and get a permit, but what do I need to do?” Most people don’t understand what’s needed. So, if they’re operating as Joe Homeowner, so to speak, it becomes pretty overwhelming in their eyes. The great thing with the town is that you can still come up and talk to a person, or call and actually talk to an individual. Our plans review staff is so helpful, especially when it comes to a home-building project.
We just walk people through the process. The town’s plans examiners will review and verify your plans. Depending on the scope of the project, the turn-around time can vary. If the project is fairly small, the plans examiner will do the review and stamp it. Applicants can literally get a permit over the counter for small projects. Most projects, though, are going to take a couple weeks for review. Typically, it’s 10 working days. For bigger projects, you could have up to a four-week review, but that’s mainly for commercial buildings.
Review time also depends on how professional the plans are. Believe me, there is nothing that a plans examiners loves more than a well done plan that they can stamp and approve. Then the fees can be paid. Once the permit fees are paid, the cost for all inspections is covered through to the end of the project.
People often wonder why they need permits. My response is that permits and our services provide a level of assurance that whatever project is taking place, large or small, the building inspection staff is reviewing the plans to make sure they’re up to code, and that we’re sending seasoned professional inspectors to oversee that it’s going to be done right. And remember: this is all about safety.
Originally published in The Explorer, a newspaper of Tucson Local Media, on Jan. 16, 2019.