AIA Washington Council testifies before WA Senate on Building Codes

Testimony Notes (regarding SB 5378):
Stan Bowman, Exe Dir. AIA|WA, representing over 3,000 architects, emerging architects and related professionals.

Architects are the first line of defense for public safety. As the lead design professional on building projects, architects rely heavily on building codes to ensure the buildings they design are safe for the public. Architects wants codes that are:
  • Coordinated: that the family of codes is well coordinated to prevent conflicts.
  • Contemporary: the codes are regularly updated to the meet the latest public safety needs and reflect new technologies
This bill (SB 5378) has several problems. Others have discussed the need to stay consistent with the national model code development process. In fact, current state law addresses this point in:
RCW 19.27.020
Be consistent with current nationally accepted standards:
  • Permit the use of modern technical methods, devices and improvements
  • To eliminate restrictive, obsolete, conflicting, duplicating and unnecessary regulations and requirements which could unnecessarily increase construction costs...
  • To provide for standards and specifications for making buildings and facilities accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons

Perhaps the greatest liability exposure is with compliance with the American with Disability Act and federal Fair Housing Standards. This is where use of the contemporary model codes helps us the most.

International Residential Code has safe harbor with HUD, meaning that if you design and build to that code, then you won't be sued.

ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessibility standards are aligned with the federal American with Disabilities Act. WA has finally adopted this standard.

The 3-year national code revision cycle allows code officials to legally respond, in an appropriate time frame, to issues that may arise locally, nationally, or internationally. Examples include response to items such as school shootings, where the Fire Code Technical Advisory Group was able to provide state amendments on school lockdown/hold in place requirements. After 3 years, these requirements were modified based upon actual experiences using these fire code provisons. Accordingly, changes were made over a 3 year period that otherwise would have taken 6 years! 6 years is far too long to potentially put our childen at risk!

Finally, it is important to realize that the state code amendments do not necessarily impose more restrictive requirements for projects in Washington. Over the past decade, many more restrictive amendments have been deleted. Additionally, national code revisions that were considered to be excessive have been deleted by state amendments. Examples of these deletions include increased corridor and stairway widths, as well as luminous stairway markings in existing buildings, that would have been very expensive and not justified based upon safety considerations in this state.

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