It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I was appointed Building Commissioner. The year has gone rapidly due to historically high permitting volume. Keeping inspections caught up and getting permits out the door has been challenging as all of you know. Let’s look at some of the accomplishments as well as challenges ahead:
Insulated Slab and Energy Codes: The department considered structural implications when interpreting the insulating requirements for slab construction. The result was having the option of using methods approved by the State or getting engineering as allowed in 106.3 of IRC. Later interpretations by the State removed the need for the engineering letter if builders chose the performance path.
In the long term, this is a win for builders and homeowners as it allows for a more structurally sound foundation. The negatives which still beg for resolution are how to get a passing value for slabs on a performance path.
License Renewal in 2016: For the first time, the contractor list was updated and audited. Approximately 34 companies were found to not have a current qualifier. A majority of these companies had staff take the test and become qualified and legal. The rest of the companies are no longer in business today. This step levels the playing field for all the legitimate contractors abiding by the rules.
Partial Basement Policy: Relaxing the existing policy to give more options on how far a customer wants the basement finished is good for local builders and buyers. In this market where spec homes never make it to an open house, a common sense solution was needed.
Expanding Technology Use: The Building Department actually issued some instant permits last week only to encounter a bug in programming that must be fixed by the software provider. We are aggressively seeking to offer a number of trade permits that will not require approval before issuance. I hope I can announce the availability of this in my next Commissioner’s Corner.
Tiny Houses in Fort Wayne
A discussion is growing in Allen County about “tiny houses” and I would like your input. While building code allows a house smaller than 950 square feet, local zoning ordinance currently prohibits them. My point of view is that I should only provide technical information related to building codes in these discussions. I did think of how this could impact the local building economy, specifically HBA contractors and their suppliers. I will reach out to Jessica and Maurine on where the HBA stands on tiny houses so concerns are addressed as discussions begin. Updates will follow in next month’s newsletter.