Fort Collins Staff Says Building Code Updates Always Add Cost

Fort Collins staff is preparing to make recommendations to City Council regarding the 2012 International Residential. That discussion has been postponed until December 3, but in a presentation to the FCBR Government Affairs Committee Chief Building Official Mike Gebo offered his thoughts and made some interesting observations.

Gebo said every code update increases construction cost and for that reason staff tries to keep amendments to a minimum. The primary changes that will be proposed for this update include a requirement for an outside exhaust for gas cooking devices and increased energy efficiency requirements such as additional insulation.

In addition, because of several recent fires in the City, staff intends to propose a local amendment to prohibit vinyl siding in any residential construction. This is considered a local amendment and goes above and beyond what is included in the 2012 IRC.

On the other hand, staff is not recommending the adoption of fire suppression sprinklers in new single-family homes, although the requirement will be suggested for townhomes and duplexes. Multi-family complexes are already required to have sprinklers systems. Gebo will recommend delaying the implementation of the sprinkler requirement until July 1, 2014 so installers and building inspectors can receive training on sprinkler systems.

Gebo said the cost for sprinkler systems has gone down since the devices were first added to the 2009 IRC code update. The initial estimate was $2 a square foot but that has decreased to approximately $1.29 per SF. He added that contrary to public perception, most installations require the activation of only one sprinkler head. In other words, all sprinkler heads do not go off during a fire. Research indicates there is significant savings in homes affected by fires — $1,000 per event versus $11,000 in homes without sprinklers.

One idea proposed by Gebo raised a number of questions. He argued that in the future, the City should consider requiring the sprinkler systems in new single-family home subdivisions. He argued that this would reduce the required number of hydrants and change street standards because streets wouldn’t have to be as wide since fire trucks wouldn’t have to travel on these roads. Ultimately, he agreed that here is no plan to implement this requirement; it’s a bigger discussion for future planning.

The Government Affairs Committee will continue to discuss the proposed revisions to the IRC and prepare draft recommendations for the FCBR Board of Directors.

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