Does The Building Code Grasp Tighten?

28 Mar

Okay, you know the drill.

If you desire to live in a home of your own crafting, especially one that uses alternative materials and alternative building practices. you already know that you may have a long road to hoe, to get from where you are – to where you need to be.

I’ve spent the last few days taking care of Joshua as he starts rebounding from his accident, and it’s allowed me to catch up on my reading – 10-15 minutes at a time. If you’ve ever had a three year old, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you happen to have a sick three year old, you have my profound sympathies. Oy, what a handful! 😦

A friend of mine, Laren Corie (of “Little House” fame) recently addressed the implementation of Universal Building Codes (and IRC/IBCs) by more and more States across the US.

I thought it was so interesting that I thought I’d get permission to post it here, in order to stimulate some discussion.

[Editor’s note: The content is Laren’s. The reformatting is MINE and I take sole responsibility for screwing up a very good post.] 😉

So without further adieu, I give you that “Sage of Small Places both Near and Far”…

Laren Corie.

Most states have a mandatory, universal residential building code.

They did not used to. They used to allow the people to make their own choices about what kind of house they lived in. New York also appears to be the only US state that require ALL working drawings, for virtually any work on a home, to carry a seal from a New York State licensed architect, or structural engineer.

There are also minimum house size requirements. They are part of the state codes. They require a minimum size (conditioned floor area) usually of 700+ to 960ft², which means that you can not build a Little House, then add onto it. Building and living in a LittleHouses is ILLEGAL. in most of the United States.

A LittleHouse is outlaw housing. In most states you must “permit” and build 700+ to 960ft², as a minimum, right from the start.

Then there are energy efficiency requirements. I am definitely a strong advocate of energy efficiency. But, why is Winter efficiency requires for a Summer cabin, or a hunting cabin that only is occupied a week or two per year. And, why should such a structure be required to have fossil fuel or electric heat, a well, a septic system, and an electric system, that has a minimum amperage? There are also mandatory plumbing requirements that you will be forced to follow, or you will be considered a criminal, and risk government actions.

Unfortunately, unless you move into an existing house, your dream may be fraught with peril. Most states did not used to micro-manage every little bit of work that people do to their homes. In fact, most had no residential building codes, especially for owner builders.

But, it creates jobs for bureaucrats, that need offices, and lawyers and accountants, all to tell you how to live, while claiming that it is for your own good.

But, you don’t get to make the choice for yourself, you stupid, incompetent children ;O)

You need a government bureaucracy to tell you that you must live in what THEY decide for you.

And, that is what is most important, to both them, and to you. This  is an issue of a RIGHT to personal freedom, as long as it does not physically endanger others.

But, we are now in an era where “money” has more rights than people do. When you build a house that does not enhance your neighbor’s property values (their “money”) they can even sue you. But, they generally do not have to, because the government shares their interest (not yours for freedom) because it collects property taxes, and bigger, more expensive houses, bring in more tax dollars.

It has only been recently that New York state has adopted the extreme law that virtually all building, and home improvements, require working drawings that carry the seal of a NY state licensed architect or structural engineer.

I think we can all figure out what lobby wrote, promoted, and got that sucker passed. It is nothing more than blatant nepotism, for the sake of taking your money and placing it in the pockets of a special interest group.

I just read, only yesterday, that Indiana, one of the last bastions of owner-building freedom, has now adopted a universal mandatory residential building code. That is how the building departments can bring in necessary cash, to support themselves after the building bubble, which they had used, as an excuse, to overly bloat their departments. Now, they want to maintain them, but they do not have enough work.

So, they need to create work, where they had none before. It does not matter that things were just fine without them. Who pays? Not the bureaucrats that got the government into debt.

No! They not only do not pay, they actually get paid.

Who pays, is owner-builders (and really all homeowners), and everybody loses another huge piece of personal freedom.

We deserve a “RIGHT” to freedom of shelter choices, such as the RIGHT to build LittleHouses, as long as it does not endanger the lives and physical safety of others. Instead we have laws (building codes) such as minimum sizes, that only feed bureaucracies and banks. Who says LittleHouses are not political?

[Editors Note: Replace “LittleHouses” with “ISBU Houses” and the same exact sentiments apply, in my view. Laren is exactly right.]

-Laren Corie-
Natural Solar Building Design and
Solar Heating/Natural Cooling/Energy
Efficiency Consultation Since 1975

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Yeah, he’s a freakin’ expert at everything… 😉
I suspect that Loren practices Brain Surgery and AstroPhysics as hobbies when he gets bored. … 🙂


3 Responses to “Does The Building Code Grasp Tighten?”

  1. Jeremiah March 28, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Dang man, you done opened the can now! Holy moly where does one begin? Building codes….they suck, but in order to ensure a minimum standard of building construction and the health safety and welfare of the general public, they are necessary. Though minimum requirements on square footage for a residence should not be written into a code other than to establish what types of structures the code has dominion over. I mean, people live in million dollar shoe boxes in NYC, for goodness sake! :-\ Where are all the code officials all in a tizzy over those spaces?
    That aside, I do agree completely with Laren that the politicians have gone above and beyond the “call of duty” so to speak in regards to planning, zoning and permitting. There is actually a very lengthy and heated discussion about the mandatory, and legally required, use of architects on all manner of built structure on LinkedIn. The discussion is pretty much divided by licensed architects and unlicensed building professionals/residential designers.
    I love Laren’s example of a Summer cabin needing to meet winter conditions, etc. Brilliant! And that really gets at the sometimes absurdity of the “minimum universal code standard” in that, the world is not a “universal” anything. There are different needs for different areas of the country and need to be addressed individually in each locale.
    The fact that politicians and planning officials line their pockets from ridiculous rules and regulations is as old as building. The first architects were priests and they had complete dominion over all building – period. No room for discussion, case closed. So, thankfully we’ve come up a bit from there. 😛 And unfortunately, once something becomes law (as we’re seeing with ObamaCare) it’s nearly impossible to repeal it. One can only find ways to work within/around it to get things done. I mean, hell, it’s still illegal for women to wear red on Sunday’s in Georgia.
    All that being said, I have no idea what the solution is. I believe that a minimum code standard is necessary because people are generally stupid and will kill themselves quickly if no one reigns them in at least a little (think potato gun or lighting one’s own farts – it’s just not a good idea).

  2. Jeremiah April 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I can NOT believe this didn’t get more people a little red in the face….bummer. Could have been a sweet discussion.

    • Renaissance Ronin April 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm #


      You’re right. I thought it would too.

      As the noose tightens, it’s going to become harder and harder to take the “less beaten path” that leads to home ownership and family prosperity.

      Unless we act NOW, it’ll be too late.

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