State Officials, Builders Prepare for Building Code Updates

Members of the state’s Construction Code Advisory Council met on Nov. 30, to begin the process of updating the state’s building codes.

During the meeting, the Construction Code Advisory Council appointed the official members of its 10 Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), the bodies responsible for reviewing changes to each code: Accessibility Code, Building Code Administration, Commercial Building Code, Elevator Code, Energy Code, Existing Building Code, Fire Code Compatibility, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Code, Structural and the Residential Building Code.

Process and Timing

Earlier this year, staff at the Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) cataloged each from the 2015 and 2018 building codes. Each change is to be reviewed by a TAG of at least six experts comprised of DLI staff, code officials and industry representatives. The TAGs will recommend which changes should be put forward.

The Construction Code Advisory, Council will then review the TAGs recommendations and submit its findings to the DLI Commissioner, before the final proposed code is published. The final draft codes will be opened for public comment before going into effect, with drafts expected by June 2018. The new codes will likely take effect in March 2020.

Changes To Expect

With the changes from both the 2015 and 2018 codes up for review, builders and code officials have a clear picture of what changes to expect.

Major home-related code changes to be reviewed by the TAGs include:

Masonry Veneer: Minimum 7/16-inch OSB sheathing or plywood is required behind foam sheathing; New provisions for brick tie attachment over foam sheathing up to 2 inches thick.

Projections: Heavy timber and fire-retardant-treated wood as options to meet the fire-resistance rating.

Townhomes: Option of two 1-hour fire-resistance rated wall assemblies to separate townhomes reinstated.

Windows: Maximum U-Factor decreased from .32 to .30 in climate zones 5-8.

Industry To Seek Reforms

According to home builders, the 2014 building code changes added between $8,000 and $14,000 to the base price of a new home in Minnesota.

Advocates for the industry point out that new-home buyers can’t afford another increase of that size.

“With the dramatic increase in home prices due to the regulatory process, more and more Minnesota families are being priced out of the new home market,” said Nick Erickson, regulatory affairs manager for Housing First Minnesota.

Erickson says Housing First Minnesota is prepared to offer several dozen amendments aimed at improving home performance and safety, while reducing the cost to consumers.

“Today’s homes are the safest and highest preforming in history,” said Erickson. “We need to work to ensure they remain affordable.”

Industry Representatives:

Residential Building Code
Brent Nygaard | Lennar

Building Code Administration
Mike Swanson | JMS Custom Homes

Mike Barden | Pulte Group

Energy Code
Ross Anderson | The Energy Network