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Speakers debate building code update at council

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City Council last night held a first reading on an ordinance designed to update Springfield’s residential building codes.

The ordinance would repeal Springfield’s residential building code in its entirety and adopt a new code, effective July 1, 2021. Springfield Building Development Services Director Harlan Hill presented the ordinance to council, with the biggest point being energy conservation changes, as well as areas such as soil and wind capacities. Officials are seeking to adopt the 2018 or 2021 International Building Code, Hill said, noting the city is currently using the 2012 version of the code.

“Our initial approach was to find a comfort level, an entry level if you would, and then propose a progressive movement toward increased adoption of the codes,” Hill said. “Our goal was to try and meet an equitable balance between full adoption and some of what the development community was proposing.”

The ordinance in front of council represents a mix of Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield and Springfield Building Development Services proposals as recommended by council’s Plans and Policies Committee. Building Development Services staff met with representatives of the design and construction industry over a three-month span to discuss the impact of the code changes.

Speakers before council last night were cautious about fully moving to the 2018 International Building Code and said the code would push people to build houses outside city limits, along with future buying concerns.

“I think you need to move with caution when moving forward on this because there are people that will be forced into permanent renter status,” said Rusty MacLachlan, board member for Habitat for Humanity and a local home builder.

MacLachlan said under the 2018 International Building Code, a 1,500-square-foot home would increase by nearly $5,000 in construction costs.

Jason Bekebrede, president of the Springfield HBA, said education would be needed to help area builders meet the requirements of the 2018 code.

“It takes some time to learn,” he told council.

A few of the younger speakers mentioned being mindful of greenhouse gas pollution and urged council to be environmentally responsible.

The speakers mostly favored an alternate ordinance drafted by Councilman Richard Ollis that would phase in energy conservation provisions by adopting amendments proposed by the Springfield HBA. Amendments from Building Development Services would be enacted on July 1, 2021.

Councilman Craig Hosmer was concerned about utility bills for homeowners under the proposed recommendations. Hosmer asked multiple speakers about the blower door test, which is a way to test the airtightness of a home through the use of a special fan, according to the Department of Energy.

Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance Nov. 18.

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