Building Codes are Boss with Your New Construction or Renovation

Published on May 1, 2013 by
Whitesboro Building Codes

Village of Whitesboro Building Codes webpage

In the last post, we talked about how to use Building Codes to your advantage when constructing or renovating a residential or commercial building. Here, we’ll talk about how you can more effectively get the right information from the codes department to not only build safely but also to incorporate design that works to your advantage.

When I partner with clients as their architect, I become their advocate when it comes to codes. I speak directly to the codes officer to be sure that he backs up his opinions in writing directly from the municipality’s code.

That’s the rule of thumb when it comes to your relationship with the codes department. People often think that if a codes officer suggests a violation there is no recourse. The thing is, sometimes codes officers go too far.

So, when you get an opinion, ask the officer for written proof directly from the local codes to back it up. In other words, ask him or her to Xerox the section of the code they’re referring to and give it to you to support their position.

Codes officers aren’t architects or designers. I had an experience in a commercial building where I designed bathrooms for a major renovation. These redesigned bathrooms had to be built up to current code, which meant incorporation of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

My design used a partition wall for privacy to avoid having to install locks, making it easier for the disabled to use the bathroom. The codes officer maintained that the partition didn’t meet code, but I thought it did. I didn’t blame him for the error, I don’t expect codes enforcement officers to have memorized the building codes.

But after I asked him for the section of the code which banned partitions, he couldn’t come up with it. I’ve experienced other instances where a codes officer suggested a design change that actually wasn’t in the code.

Again, codes officers are knowledgeable and conscientious, but they must adhere strictly to the Building Code. If you don’t agree with them, just ask them for copies of the section of the code they’re referring to when they suggest any changes or directives in your construction.

Or, be sure your architect questions them, so you get the most intelligent design possible for the best price.

Until next time,
Dan Berkhoudt, Architect

Other helpful posts on this subject:

When Do You Need a Building Permit in Central New York & The Mohawk Valley

Constructing or Renovating a Business? You Don't Have to Go It Alone

Free Money Saving Advice From Your Codes Enforcement Officer and Other Local Agencies

Dan Berkhoudt, AIA, LEED-AP is an experienced architect working in Utica, Rome, and Central New York. He specializes in new building construction and renovation both commercial and residential. Call 315.737.4416 or contact him here.

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