Starting June 11, 2019, the construction requirements for new buildings will change in Navajo County.
The county has adopted the 2015 International Building Code and International Residential Code.
The IBC was first published in 1997 and is updated every three years.
There are five reasons for the update, according to Navajo County Public Works Director John Osgood and one promises to prevent an additional burden on the wallets of property owners.
Last year, the agency that rates communities for insurance companies, the ISO, threatened to give Navajo County a failing grade for its out-of-date building code and enforcement program. The ISO grading scale ranges from 1 to 10 — with one being the best, 10 the worst. The ISO told Navajo County that it was about to be graded 10.
The rankings are used by insurance companies to set insurance premiums.
Prior to the most recent ISO survey, Navajo County was scored a 6 for residential properties and 5 for commercial and industrial properties.
As an example of the implications of the ISO scoring, in the early 2000s, following the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, the Vernon area had no community fire protection and, as a result, a very poor ISO rating. Due to the ISO score, insurers were threatening to not write any new homeowners’ policies.
With the current county budget constraints, the most feasible way for Navajo County to retain its middling scores, Osgood said, was to update its building codes from the current 2003 edition to the 2015 edition.
Because the change in building codes could potentially have deleterious impacts on builders, public works staffers held two public meetings in December 2017, one in Show Low and the second in Heber.
Last month, public works sent a draft version of the proposed changes to some 90 folks in the construction industry, seeking additional comments and suggestions. Public works incorporated changes to the proposed code based on the comments and suggestions from local builders.
The other benefits from adoption of the updated code, in addition to the economic benefit of lower insurance bills, are “to protect the public (safer buildings), to reduce loss of life (safer buildings), to minimize the risk of property loss, assure structures built in Navajo County are constructed to current industry standards and to reduce economic and social disruption that result from natural catastrophes.”
Osgood said there “was not much resistance” to the proposed changes from builders beyond “some grumbling.”
Osgood said the county had not researched how much the change would impact the price of housing, but pointed out that any increases would, at least in part, be offset by lower insurance premiums.
In a review of the 15 counties in Arizona, Osgood pointed out, only Apache County has adopted the 2015 edition. Ten counties are using the 2012 edition, La Paz uses the 2006 edition and Navajo and Graham counties use the 2003. Information on Greenlee County was not included in Osgood’s report.