Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Re: Code Enforcement Concerns

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

"Minimalist" is a gratuitous characterization of Arizona building codes.

No, there is no state building code.  Last year (or the year before) the 
legislature adopted a state plumbing code because plumbing contractors 
complained about the differing requirements from one community to another.  
State buildings are required to conform to the building code of the largest 
city in the county.  Prior to 1974, there were no county building codes as 
the legislature never granted counties permission to adopt building codes.  
(Permission was actually given in 1972, but no county established a building 
code until 1974.)  Even then, IIRC, schools were not required to conform to 
building codes until sometime in the 1980's.

Seismic Hazard Mitigation consisted in having most of the state put in 
Seismic Zone 1 in 1985 so that the largest city in the state could continue 
to construct to those requirements and still adopt the UBC.

Even though Tucson and Pima County are Seismic Zone 2, local amendments to 
the UBC permit unreinforced masonry (adobe and burnt adobe) and straw bale 
construction as well as rammed earth.

*ALL* single family residences are exempt from Arizona's registration laws.  
A Bill Gates' style house could be constructed without a single registrant 
being involved.

All agricultural buildings are exempt from building codes.  I had a 
contractor contact me about designing a private aircraft hanger, but he was 
going to call it an agricultural building so it wouldn't need the code 
required separations or fire resistance.  (He had done this before.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  I will look at the 
excerpts from the PEER report or get a copy and read the whole thing.

Enforcement of a *good* building code is like sex.  When it's good, it's very 
very good;  when it's bad, it's still pretty good!

A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
Tucson, Arizona

Fred Turner wrote:


Roger -

I think you are correct in some respects. I didn't state the obvious in my
earlier email.

You might check out this PEER report since it covers Arizona and the Western
U.S. As of May 1997, Arizona was characterized as one of 17 states having
"minimalist" approaches to code enforcement described by PEER's Peter May as
"very weak approaches to building codes. They have either not adopted a
state building code, or they have adopted a code with provisions that apply
to only a few types of public buildings." Is this true and accurate??

California is characterized by PEER as having a "Mandatory" approach to code
enforcement. However, Peter May found in surveys that such "Mandatory"
states "pay little attention to the extent to which local governments
actually adhere to state prescriptions." This is consistent with anecdotal
evidence that many of the over 600 jurisdictions in California are just not
staffed or otherwise equipped with the resources to enforce the code
consistently - particularly for major, engineered buildings. By the way,
Peter is from Washington state, not California.

On the other hand, Roger is absolutely right that some of the best building
departments with the nation's highest expressed priorities in enforcing the
code are in California. Peter May's survey shows that California's building
officials on the whole rank seismic safety and code enforcement as having a
higher priority than any other state. This is no surprise.

However, California is a big state with a wide spread of enforcement
activity. Some of the state's busiest construction activity - rampant
growth - occurs in its smaller, outlying communities which often have
ill-equipped building departments. Anecdotes of plan checks with no redmarks
are common. The lack of independent, qualified reviews and inspections is
unsettling to many firms practicing in California.

In a separate Insurance Service's Office's survey of "Building Code
Enforcement Effectiveness" of 415 California building departments, 0.8 % of
the state's population reside in cities with the best Class 1 building
departments. I think that's Fremont - congratulations to Massoud Abolhoda a
SEAOC member and Chief Building Official of Fremont. 12% reside in Class 2
cities and counties. 48% in Class 3. 35% in Class 4, 3% in Class 5, and 0.7%
in the least effective Class 6 jurisdictions. These findings suggest  that
over 80% of California's building departments have some room to improve. As
is the case elsewhere. Wouldn't you agree?


-----Original Message-----
From: Roger Turk <73527.1356(--nospam--at)>
To: seaint(--nospam--at) <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Date: Friday, December 24, 1999 10:08 AM
Subject: CBSC Appts

>Fred Turner writes:
>>>More importantly, a recent PEER Report 99-04 identifies the lack of code
>enforcement and local and state government accountability as the key factor
>in achieving reliable construction. California is characterized as less
>an energetic state in this regard when compared to Oregon, Alaska,
>Conneticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New
>York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Vermont.<<
>As someone from outside the State of California, I would like to see
>construction in the states mentioned above (in fact anywhere in the world)
>that supposedly have better enforcement than California perform better and
>save more lives from earthquakes than the construction "lacking
>in California.
>An inadequate code, scrupulously enforced, is not worth the paper it is
>printed on.
>A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
>Tucson, Arizona