Working With Code Officials-Part 1

Every time I thought about posting on the topic of working with code officials, I would get bogged down in the sheer number of issues that need to be discussed. Is the code official allowed inside the home? What can they inspect? Why is code enforcement so inconsistent? Why are we afraid of upsetting the code official? Shouldn’t the code officials know installation better than me?

There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding, misinformation, failed communication, and worst of all, mistrust between the code enforcers and our industry.  With all of that in mind, I felt the best approach was to start with a series of short posts that hopefully will all come together and make sense.

So, to quote the Wizard of Oz, it is best to start at the beginning. For manufactured housing the beginning starts at PREEMPTION. If you are not familiar with this term, this is your lucky day!

The word “preemption” simply means that one thing takes the place of another. Think about how a breaking news story “preempts” your favorite TV show! So, the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) takes the place of (preempts) the state and local building code.

 

So, what do you think this means to the code official?  Basically, he is being asked to issue a building permit for a manufactured home without doing the things he would normally do for any other house. But the typical code official has a lot of questions. Has anyone properly reviewed the building plans? Has anyone conducted any inspections during the construction process? Is this HUD code any good? Has anyone done the things he would have done if the home was being built on site?

The code official needs education! However, we do a very poor job explaining the manufactured housing program and how manufactured homes are likely more highly scrutinized and inspected than any conventional constructed home. Because of the strength of manufactured housing program, the code officials can have confidence in homes we install.

A Manufactured home has earned the right of preemption from local building code!

Not taking full advantage of the preemptive nature of the HUD Code adds unnecessary costs to the installation of the home and does nothing to improve the image of manufactured housing industry.  If we earn the confidence of the local code enforcers, we will earn the confidence of the home buying public. And it all starts with knowing how to answer all of the code official’s questions. Explain how the plans were reviewed and stamped as proof of compliance. Explain the in-plant inspection processes, and the accountability that is in place to assure that the manufactured house is not just affordable, but safe, durable and high quality. Explain to the code officials that the manufactured housing program works on behalf of the building code official.

We need all code officials to understand that they don’t need to worry about the rough framing, plumbing, electrical and other construction inspections. All of these inspections were already conducted on their behalf.  While they can’t review all of the building plans, the plans were reviewed on their behalf. If something were to go wrong, there are mechanisms in place to get things corrected.  As a result, the code official can have confidence in every new manufactured home that comes into their town. The problem is that a lot of code officials don’t know how the program works! They need training, and the installers are in the best position to start training them!

Here are just a few of the things to consider:

·         Installers must know the installation manual! Stop saying “we always did it that way” and start following the manual, making positive changes to our installation procedures.

·         Get involved with the building permit application process. Submit details, designs or instructions that have been plan reviewed and stamped. That means a stamp from one of the agencies that does plan review for the manufactured housing program; RADCO, PFS, HWC, TRA, NTA, NEB (whoever is listed on the data plate).

·         Know the HUD code. Be able to explain why the drain lines under the home do not need insulated. Be able to explain why ARC Fault protection is not required. Be able to explain flash rings, bonding wires, closed combustion appliances, limited combustible materials at the cooking range area …just to name a few.

Ok, that is enough for now. But stayed tuned, Part 2 on this topic will post next week!

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2 thoughts on “Working With Code Officials-Part 1

  1. Code officials remind me of the old saying “Those of you who think you know everything, really annoy the hell out of those of us who do.” Even when they’re wrong they act like they’re right, and they don’t seem to want to learn anything from us because imho they feel we’re beneath them. That’s my rant, but I love the post, keep it coming!

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  2. Every time I deal with a code enforcement official I am acutely reminded of the expression “Those of you who think you know everything, really annoy the hell out of those of us who actually do”. The code officials I’ve dealt with are more than just poorly trained. They are not interested in being trained, educated or corrected. Most assuredly not by us, whom they deem imho to be beneath them. Even when confronted with the code in black and white they seem to somehow take it as a personal affront that we had the audacity to challenge them, and their knowledge. I believe the reasoning behind “why we’re afraid of upsetting them” is simple- If you challenge the judge, and are proven right beware his retaliation when next you meet. Where he could have overlooked a small issue he chooses instead to remember you and make life more difficult than it needs to be as retribution for being right.

    My most recent experience was with a customer who was told by the local code official that 4 of the 6 homes he had could not be used on site as they failed code. 3 for not being 2×6 construction and therefore being under insulated. 1 for having bedroom windows that were too small to allow egress. The 5th he deemed questionable due to his inability to find the HUD stickers. Amazingly he’s only right on the one that has no stickers as all the others preempt him, but I’m already set for the argument……

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