By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO - Constructing a new home or business in Tupelo could get more slightly more expensive if the City Council adopts stricter building codes as proposed by the License Commission.
Council members will soon consider replacing the city's current 1997 Southern Building Code with the 2006 International Building Code and its eight companion codes, including the residential, property maintenance, plumbing, mechanical and fire codes.
The old guidelines are obsolete, and the new ones would bring Tupelo up to date with other cities across the nation.
"We're behind - way behind," said Kenneth Estes, president of the North Mississippi Home Builders and Remodelers Association. Estes' group supports adopting the new measures, saying they will make structures safer and more sound.
Of the changes to occur, the most significant ones include:
- Basing structural design on 70 mph wind speeds, up from the current 90 mph speeds.
- Putting smoke detectors in every bedroom and the central hallway of a house as opposed to just in the hallway. Also, each detector must be linked, so that if one goes off they all go off.
- Separating attached garages from houses with fire-rated sheet rock.
- Indicating the insulation rating used in a house.
- Installing fire sprinklers in all clubs and lounges with capacity for more than 100 people. Currently the capacity starts at 300 people.
- Installing fire sprinklers in all single- and two-family dwellings. Council members could opt to remove this clause from the codes, however.
"They are really not big changes," said city planner Pat Falkner. "These are not drastic even though we're jumping from a 1997 code to a nine-year mark."
Actually, the city did briefly adopt the 2000 International Building Code several years ago but switched back to the current one after some builders complained about cost. Their biggest gripe was related to the strict requirements for foundations to withstand earthquakes. But those rules have been slackened in the 2006 version, Falkner said.
Although no one could estimate just how much more expensive new construction would be under the new guidelines, Estes said it wouldn't be cost-prohibitive.
Council members are expected to discuss the changes at their Dec. 4 meeting. They were proposed earlier this year by the city License Commission, an eight-member citizen board that reviews codes and code violations. Leaders could make a decision before Christmas, and if approved, the codes could take effect by Jan. 1.
In most cases, existing homes and businesses will not be affected by the change. Exceptions are clubs and lounges that will have to install fire sprinklers if their capacity tops 100 people and they currently don't have the systems.
Also, landlords who next year must submit to a housing inspection to get a newly required business license will be forced to comply with the updated guidelines, said the city's chief building inspector David Wammack.
Although proponents laud the new codes, their adoption would further widen - albeit minimally - the price gap between building in Tupelo versus outside city limits, where the county has no such requirements.
Wammack doesn't see that as a problem, however. He called it Tupelo's job to provide safe housing and services to its residents, and passing the most modern codes is part of that. Citizens who want to benefit will remain in the city; those who don't have another option.
Major differences between Tupelo's current building code (SBC) and the new, proposed code (IBC):
1997 Southern Building Code 2006 International Building Code
- Must build for a 70 mph wind speed -Must build for a 90 mph wind speed
- Need smoke detectors in each bedroom and in central hallway - Need smoke detector in central hallway only
- Garages need to be separated from the house with fire-rated sheet rock - No need to separate garage and house in this way
- Builders must indicate what level of insulation they used - Insulation rating unspecified
-Fire sprinklers in clubs and lounges with capacity for more than 100 people - Sprinklers when the capacity starts at 300 people
- Fire sprinklers in all single- and two-family dwellings. Although, council members could opt to remove this clause from the code - No sprinkler needs in residential dwellings.