by Andrew Getty
As required by New York State, Code Enforcement Officials must obtain twenty-four hours of continued education and training each year regarding all the state codes.
Including the Building Code, Residential Code, Fire Code, Plumbing Code, Mechanical Code, Fuel Gas Code, Existing Building Code, Property Maintenance Code, and of course the Energy Code.
All of these documents combined are called the NYS Uniform Fire Protection and Building Code.
And the “Uniform Code” is all modeled after the International Codes.
None of this has anything to do with local land use regulations or zoning.
You see, your local municipality, Town or Village Boards, only have authority over land use and zoning issues, but not the Uniform Code.
The state mandates each city, town and village to administer and enforce the Uniform Code.
They shall hire someone who has taken all the initial required NYS basic training courses and passed the state exam.
The vast majority of these cities, towns or villages hire a duly qualified Code Officer because the state says so.
Additionally, the municipality then expects that Code Officer to administer local zoning.
There is no training or passing an exam for zoning. It’s on the job training.
Understandably, zoning and the Uniform Code are closely related, but at the same time distinctly different.
When an application is received for the construction of a new house, a comprehensive plan review takes place.
Surveys are required to verify the location of the house on the property—zoning.
The construction plans are reviewed for structural, energy, fire safety—Uniform Code.
The height and size are reviewed—zoning.
If it’s not a home, the use of the structure is determined—zoning & Uniform Code.
Different Uniform Codes apply depending on the use; and different uses are allowed or prohibited depending on zoning districts. They do impact each other, but are different in the underlying intent.
Although zoning laws stay relatively constant, the Uniform Code is rather fluid; thus the need of annual continued education to keep up with the changes.
This year is no different. In fact, this is another of those milestones of big changes in the State Uniform Code.
Yes, there are changes in specific codes that all builders and contractors must deal with.
However, administratively, the Uniform Code is undergoing another major change.
First a little history lesson: Up until 1984, the “Building Codes” were optional. Muni-cipalities could have their own, or none at all.
Most did use the NYS Codes that were available, but it was optional. In this office we still have the old codes that go back to 1954–1984.
In the year 1984, the State adopted the first mandated comprehensive codes and made it law for all municipalities to adopt and enforce; bringing the entire state into one consistent set of building and fire safety standards… thus the term “Uniform Code.”
Along with this came the required training for code officials.
The code was comprehensive, complicated, very inclusive, very technical and certainly not easy to read and use. But it was uniform around the state.
Now, the year 2002 comes along and the state has had eighteen years of dealing with code amendments, corrections, changes, training and re-printing. A huge and daunting task when considering the changes in technology of materials, the heightened concern of national energy conservation, building fire safety and re-use of existing buildings.
New York was not the only state dealing with these issues; the entire country was leaning to a nationally standardized code.
In 2002, after a lot of discussion at high levels, New York State adopted the entire International Code.
But again, NYS had to have its own version, printed special for New York with changes specific to New York only.
Since 2002, we have had the International Building Code (the entire set) of New York.
Again, having a special “International Code of New York” has proven to be awkward.
So, by June or July of this year, New York will adopt the entire family of the International Building Code in its entirety.
They will produce a small supplement of changes appropriate for New York, but the vast majority is left alone.
This means changes in code standards as we move forward.
Obviously, this article cannot list all the changes, so in an effort to help our builders and contractors, this office will try to hold a few informational sessions and invite anyone interested.
Ultimately it is all good stuff. Just remember, don’t shoot the messenger.