This Week's Codes and Standards, April 16

Proactive measures for wildfire safety, potential home energy rating requirement in Massachusetts, new affordable housing bills, and varying adoption of national electric code

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | April 16, 2018
Light streaks over a lake
Photo: Unsplash/Axel Bergkvist

Wide Variations in Adoption of Natl. Electric Code Could Jeopardize Safety


Wide variations in state adoptions of the National Electrical Code (NEC) raise safety concerns, according to a report by NFPA Fire & Policy Institute. For example, the Kentucky legislature recently passed a bill that loosens provisions of the electric code. The bill opens the door to potentially deadly shortcuts, according to a report at Code Watcher.
The NFPA report found that code adoption is under heavier political scrutiny, leading to delays and decisions motivated by factors other than safety concerns. Compliance costs are often the overriding concern during code adoption deliberations, without consideration of the benefits, the report says.
The report also encourages states to establish or maintain an electrical board, and to adopt new updates to the NEC as soon as each one is available, rather than waiting to adopt the NEC with other construction codes.

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Homeowners Can Reduce Wildfire Destruction by Being Proactive on Their Property


Homeowners in wildfire risk zones can take steps that go a long way towards safeguarding their property. Actions such as creating and maintaining defensible space and keeping areas near the home clear of combustible debris can make a real difference.
Some communities have stepped up enforcement of rules to reduce fire hazards, while others have stressed education. For the latter, initiatives have included workshops on how to prepare for wildfire season, appointing wildfire ambassadors in at-risk neighborhoods, and offering free debris pick-up events.

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Massachusetts Could be First State to Require Home Energy Ratings When Property is Listed


Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently filed legislation to require a home energy rating be included in listings when a property is offered for sale. If the bill becomes law, the Bay State would be the first U.S. state to enact such a requirement.
Proponents say the bill could prompt homeowners to make their homes more efficient by adding insulation, replacing windows, or installing modern HVAC systems. Officials say that residential heating, cooling, and electricity usage account for one-quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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Home Builders Lead Fight Against Tougher Building Codes


Building code organizations are moving to toughen codes to withstand stronger storms, but homebuilders in some states are resisting. Homebuilders in Florida last year led a fight against legislation that makes it easier for communities to ignore national guidelines on building codes.
The shift toward less rigorous codes is driven by rising anti-regulatory sentiment among state officials, and avoidance of anything that might hurt home sales and the tax revenue that comes with them. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found in a recent study that many states that are vulnerable to hurricanes have loosened their approach to building codes or haven’t adopted any at all.

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Philadelphia Considers Sweeping New Affordable Housing Bills


The Philadelphia City Council is considering legislation that would revamp the city’s approach to affordable housing including a new tax on construction. A one percent tax would be earmarked for homeownership and rental housing for those at 120% of area median income or less.
The tax would apply to renovations as well as new construction. New inclusionary zoning bonuses would allow developers in many zoning districts to build denser and taller buildings if they provide affordable housing.

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