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A Patchwork of Codes

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Maine does not require any of its cities or towns to have residential or commercial building codes. Fortunately, most communities do have a building code with competent code enforcement officers but adjacent communities may not have the same code making a patchwork quilt of codes throughout the state.
In 2004 Maine passed the Maine Model Building Code requiring any community that wishes to adopt a building code or upgrade its present code is required to adopt the International Building Code (IBC). Unfortunately, the law does not require a community to have a code or update at a specified date or update when the IBC code changes (the current code is IBC ‘06).
Recently, I was asked to participate on a building code focus group panel of design professionals sponsored by the State of Maine Planning Office. I pointed out that most communities in the greater Portland area have adopted IBC 2003 but towns further out have a strange mix of codes.
As an example, three outlying, adjacent towns have three different codes, i.e. Buxton (BOCA ‘96), Windham (  BOCA ‘99 ), and Westbrook ( IBC ’03 ). Imagine a contractor having three projects in these communities at the same time. When the contractor moves his crews from site to site does anyone think that the crews jump out of their trucks and pull out the relevant code book for that community?
Of course it is the responsibility of the design professionals to insure that construction documents meet the local codes but the possibility for mistakes is obvious, especially for out of state designers. Problems with codes effect project permitting, scheduling, costs, and safety. A new push for more universal code enactment is underway. To find out more please attend the 1/3/07 meeting at 3:00 PM in Portland City Hall sponsored by the Resolve 46 Steering Committee.