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New code means more resources needed

by Lannie Walker

Guam - The new International Building Code may have gone into effect today, but bringing Guam up to date as far as building and fire codes are concerned means a need for more money and manpower for the two key agencies tasked with enforcement.

The IBC took effect today, but implementation won't happen until January. GFD Captain Ed Flores described what it will mean for the Guam Fire Department, telling KUAM News, "The International Fire Code is more specifically what we will be enforcing at the fire department though the building code. It's 85% fire safety normally that I left up to Public Works."

On that note, DPW director Andy Leon Guerrero said, "What it means for personnel here at DPW is we need to increase personnel, obviously." As well as an increase in training for both departments, with Flores adding, "That may mean more manpower requirements until we can get all of our inspectors familiar with those codes and aware of all the changes."

According to Flores getting up to speed on the new code could take some time, as he said, "The codes are pretty large volume, there are quite a few different references some are in the hundreds of different types of references that are used in the code as part of the standards so of course there is a learning curve that has to happen with our inspectors as well as contractors and the business owners."

Jesus Ninete, DPW'S Building, Permits and Inspection Section Manager, says October 1 was the start date of implementation, but a 90-day transition period will follow - meaning the department can still accept building plans using the old codes up until January.  "The major differences is from the old code to the new code is the automatic sprinkler system that is required now in all, but we went to the Legislature to have that omitted from us enforcing it," he said.

While that provision was taken out, Senator Tom Ada talks about what remains, telling KUAM News, "Some of the differences in the IBC, for example, is the objective is to go out there and construct facilities that are safe for the community that doesn't necessarily mean to make a building stronger you add more rebars or cement there are differences now of where you put the cement."

And Ninete says one difference is the amount of wind velocity structures must be built to withstand.  Flores says the fire department will send BBMR an impact study on the financial impact how implementing the new code will have on GFD.  Senator Ada says he believes the agencies will be able to implement the code with an increase in funding.

As for costs to developers, James Martinez, president of the Guam Contractors Association and Guam Building Code Council, says there are two schools of thought.  "The developers are saying it's a cost issue - its going to be a higher cost.  I don't know how determine their cost, but we base it on the expert the designers and architects and they are saying in long run its going to be more cost-effective," he said.

In order to shape the code in the long run a Council was formed by members of the Association of Realtors, the GCA, and the Guam Society of Professional Engineers.  "The Guam Building Code Council from here on out will review any new changes or additions to the code," said Martinez.

The GCA president also said the Council met recently for the first time and will continue to meet on a weekly basis.

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