Controversial Building Code up for debate - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Controversial Building Code up for debate

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - A major change in the way buildings are constructed locally is coming in the fall, with the adoption of the International Building Code.  The law was supposed to go into effect in July, but lawmakers voted to hold off on the implementation until the public had a chance to give their input. 

Residents are exactly being given that opportunity this evening, as the IBC forum is currently underway in Hagatna.  The rather hefty International Building and Fire Code are now set to be enforced on October 5, making Guam the first U.S. territory to adopt the construction code, and bringing the jurisdiction up to date with all 50 states.

Michael Duenas is the acting deputy director for the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, and said, "Over the years the effort was made by all the people in the building industry to try and consolidate and have just one building code that is used throughout the United States."

Some businessowners such as Al Ysrael have questioned the adoption, as Ysrael sent an email to lawmakers today claiming the adoption will raise developers' costs by 20%.  Ysrael wrote that the new International Building and Fire Code, "Just means more delays, more paper shuffling, more expense to achieve the same results that we now have with the original universal building and fire code."

But Andy Leon Guerrero, director of the Department of Public Works, says the increase may not be that significant.  "It may maybe raise the construction cost for residential homeowners, but I don't think its going to be that significant, but at the end of the day its really important because the 2009 IBC will make sure that you have a more safer and energy efficient home," he explained.

The touted benefits of the IBC are outlined in a letter addressed to Leon Guerrero by the International Code Council.  The Council writes that homes built to strong codes are less likely to be destroyed during a natural disaster. While it may cost more to built developers could save money in the long run according to the letter, which states that communities with strong codes often benefit from reduced property insurance costs.

Another possible benefit is ensuring Guam is eligible for grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  "It does make it easier to comply with several requirements for several grants that we receive from HUD," said Duenas.

Duenas says while adopting the Code doesn't guarantee Guam will receive millions of dollars in grants, it does help ensure certain standards required to receive the grants are met such as accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  "State and local governments that receive federal funds must ensure facilities and programs are accessible to persons with disabilities," he stated.

But that doesn't necessary mean all parts of the IBC are a good fit for Guam, with Leon Guerrero saying, "There are certain codes within the IBC, more particularly in the International Residential Code and possibly the International Fire Code, that need to be revisited."

Revisited and removed, according to inspection manager at DPW Jesus Ninete, who says the agency currently won't review building plans that use the new IBC.  "There are some sections we have to omit, like the sprinkler in the 2009 IBC.  It requires residential to have sprinklers, so that section, we have to omit."

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