By John Howell
Batesville aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the International Code Council’s 2012 standards, updating construction requirements from the 2006 ICC Code.
The public hearing addressed updates to 2011 and 2012 codes on construction standards ranging from plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, electrical, existing buildings, fire, life safety, swimming pools and spas and property maintenance.
The city currently operates under 2006 codes.
The ICC develops model codes and standards used in residential, school and business construction to provide comprehensive, coordinated building safety and fire prevention codes. ICC codes are used in most U.S. communities and internationally.
City Code Administrator Pam Comer and Code Enforcement Officer John McCollum recommended adoption of the new standards with several exceptions, most notably the requirement in new residential construction that arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection be required “everywhere in a house except for the laundry, bath and kitchen,” McCollum said.
(AFCIs are designed to prevent fires by detecting an unintended electrical arc. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are designed to prevent electrical shock and are required in laundry rooms, baths and kitchens under both the 2006 and the 2012 codes.)
“In the past, the code in 2006, it was only required in the bedrooms,” McCollum said, referring to AFCIs.
“I’ve talked to a couple of electricians who build new houses and this will add about $1,000 to $1,500 to the homeowner,” the code enforcement officer said.
“We are recommending that we do away with that requirement,” McCollum said.
“Why?” Alderman Eddie Nabors asked.
“Due to the cost,” McCollum said.
“Simply cost?” Nabors asked.
“Not simply cost, but in the bedrooms we have problems with them working properly, not in all houses but in most houses” McCollum said. “When we do our final inspection, they work. Then the homeowners start having problems and the electricians come back and replace them with a regular receptacle,” he added.
“At Diamondhead, they’ve taken them out,” Comer said, referring to the elimination in the Gulf Coast community of the AFCI requirements expanded in the 2012 ICC code.
“What about other cities around here that you know of, what are they doing about this?” Alderman Bill Dugger asked.
“Oxford adopted it and left the code as is, so they’re doing the whole house,” McCollum said.
Other exclusions recommended by the code officials included a requirement for a solid-core, fire-rated door equipped with a self-closing device at the garage entrance to a home’s interior.
Hal Arms, who said that he does “a lot of maintenance,” spoke in support of excluding the garage door requirement.
“I can understand the principle, (but)… what I’m seeing is what they’re really doing with that code, they’re really driving the price of a house up. Before long it’s going to get where nobody can afford one anymore,” Arms said.
Aldermen also agreed that sprinkler systems for new residential construction will continue to be optional, but if a sprinkler system is installed it must be in compliance with the code.
McCollum and Comer also recommended allowing the reduction of fire resistance standards in common walls of townhouses when both sides have a sprinkler system.
Following the presentation, Mayor Jerry Autrey asked for further comment and asked if there were any objections. There were none.
Aldermen voted unanimously to adopt the 2011-2012 codes with the exception excluding AFCI requirements for all residential rooms except bedrooms and rooms where GFCIs are required, excluding the garage entrance door requirement and sprinkler requirements and modifying townhouse common firewall requirements.
Also attending the hearing was Panola County interim Flood Plain Manager Chad Meek.
“They’re going to have their hearing in August; they’re going to try to stay in line with what we do, too,” Comer said.