Montrose County to Update Its Building Codes
by Kati O'Hare
Jul 26, 2012 | 1251 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – Montrose County plans to update its building codes, and while many of the new rules are less stringent, some of the new requirements will affect the local building process.

The county is holding an Aug. 20 hearing in anticipation of adopting the 2009 editions of the International Building and Residential codes.

"There will be three books we will be adopting," said Steve White, the county's planning and development director. "The code itself, which deals with business, then the residential code and the energy code. … We update to the newer codes because of technology advances and the new way building is taking place."

The county also is expected to adopt a resolution allowing it to disregard certain requirements of the international codes, he said.

The new codes relax some of the existing residential building requirements, said County Plans Examiner Maurice Cutler, who is also an architect. For example, garages will no longer have to be fire-rated.

The current code requires a fire barrier between a garage and a house, usually by using fire-rated sheetrock. Cutler said studies show that the extra protection doesn't make much of a difference, and the code change should save builders money.

Homebuilders, however, will have to fork out some extra cash when laying a foundation, if the new codes are adopted.

"We are going to require that all house foundations be designed by an engineer," Cutler said.

The current code requires that foundations meet "minimum standards," but over the years, such geological factors as expansive soils, radon and high water tables have caused problems, he said.

The new code would require that an engineer test soils and design a foundation based on that specific site.

Another change in residential building: Dropping the requirement that all habitable rooms have natural light, i.e., a window to the outside. The new code still requires at least one direct access to the outside (large enough for a firefighter with an oxygen tank to enter), but with the revisions, that access could be a door.

The county doesn't plan to adopt the requirement for a fire sprinkler system in every residential home – "That would be a big expense,” he allowed, for the homeowner and/or builder –although fire-sprinkler systems will be required for commercial buildings, per the new codes.

The current code requires buildings to have a fire-sprinkler system, but offers exemptions for buildings with ample exterior doors and windows. The new code will base sprinkler requirements on the size of the building, and on the number and type of occupants.

The code updates came before Montrose County Commissioners earlier this year, but the resolution for adopting the International Fire Code was not ready, and so the hearing was continued, Cutler said.

The continued hearing starts Monday, Aug. 20, at 9 a.m. in the County Commissioners Board Room, 161 S. Townsend, in Montrose.

Kati O'Hare at

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