By Bradley D. Bail (PE)
In 2008, Minnesota’s State Building Code (SBC) was established as the minimum construction standard throughout the state. The intention was to provide a set of criteria that ensures public welfare and protects the investments of property owners and financial institutions.
A uniform statewide building code offers a long list of benefits, including consistency of construction standards; safe construction practices and materials; improved value for owners, financial institutions, and secondary mortgage markets; and reconstruction standards for insurers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use during a disaster.
Advantages of enforcement
The law does not mandate local enforcement of the code unless it is adopted as a local ordinance. As a statewide standard, the SBC is in force regardless of whether a community adopts it or not. However, by adopting the SBC as an ordinance, the local government is accepting responsibility for administering and enforcing it. Such a move comes with a number of direct advantages for your city such as:
There are also indirect benefits, such as helping to reduce blight, preserving the quality of local building stock, and maintaining property tax value within the community. In addition, by attaching a fee for service, it could be self-funding with minimal impact on your general fund.
Adopting the SBC as local ordinance can have its disadvantages, too. Additional services provided by the city usually means additional bureaucracy. The city would also be taking on the added duty to administer the code. And not all citizens will see such added regulation as valuable.
To be successful—that is, to ensure consistent compliance—such an ordinance would require broad support. Sharing information with constituents will help them understand the benefits and needs while also encouraging buy-in.
Building inspection services
If the benefits to your community outweigh the pitfalls and your city chooses to take on this responsibility, you will need to hire or contract with a building official. There are a few different ways to obtain building inspection services, including:
While some cities have already adopted the SBC as a local ordinance, others may still be weighing the pros and cons. For more information, contact the Department of Labor and Industry, Construction Codes and Licensing Division, at (651) 284-5012 or (800) 657-3944, or visit www.dli.mn.gov/CCLD/Regional.asp. While you’re there, look near the bottom of the page for another link to an excellent resource entitled Minnesota State Building Code Adoption Guide.
Bradley D. Bail, PE, is a civil engineer and vice president with Widseth Smith Nolting & Assoc., Inc. (www. widsethsmithnolting.com). Widseth Smith Nolting is a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council (www.lmc.org/sponsors).
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