Building Code Changes Spark Sprinkler System Questions

statewide building standard means Worcester County has to make some
decisions about local exceptions, including a much debated requirement for
sprinkler systems in all new residences.

The Worcester County
Commissioners will seek further input on the sprinkler question during a public
hearing this fall.

The state of Maryland
has been attempting to establish a uniform building code for a long time.

“This has been batted

back and forth for years. It’s been voted up and down for years,” Worcester Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor said.

The county must adopt
the International Building Code and the International Residential Building
code, which the state has adopted, or lose state funding.

The new codes will go
into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Local jurisdictions can
make local changes, Tudor said.

Worcester County has had
a residential building code for less than 20 years, with the first residential
standard established in 1991. Commercial standards were enacted in 1988.

“Those books no longer
even exist, those organizations no longer even exist. They’ve all been rolled
into a set of international codes,” Tudor said.

The major change is a
new provision requiring automatic sprinkler systems in one- and two-family
homes that would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, if the county does not decide
to cut that provision from the local requirements.

“It’s a very divisive
issue,” said Tudor.

The number of wells in
Worcester County could impact the decision on whether to include the sprinkler
requirement, for example.

The added cost for
sprinklers, which is unclear, could also be a factor in the commissioners’
decision. Some sources, according to Tudor, peg the price at $1 per square
foot, while others are closer to $4 per square foot.

Other local changes
could involve provisions tied to frost depth and wind zones.

A public hearing this
fall would allow the commissioners to hear all sides of the discussion at one
time, Tudor pointed out.

Waiting until September
or October would also allow the commissioners to observe the changes and
decisions made by other jurisdictions, Tudor said.

The state of Maryland
would have to sign off on any changes made to the new building code