New home construction costs on the Island could increase more than 10 per cent as a result of new state building codes requiring one and two-story buildings to withstand winds of 110 miles per hour beginning Jan. 1.
For some prospective home owners and builders, the changes have already blown away their plans.
Tisbury building inspector Kenneth Barwick said he already has heard from home builders on a budget.
“People have called me to say they cannot afford to go forward,” Mr. Barwick said. “The new rules will significantly accelerate the cost of construction, materials and professional services. The days of pulling the three-bedroom Cape plan out of the closet are over, unfortunately.”
The new building code rules were issued, with last-minute amendments last week, by the state board of building regulations and standards.
The new seventh edition of the state building codes increased structural wind resistance requirements from 90 to 110 mph. The code also created a wind-debris zone one mile inland from mean tide in which houses must be able to handle winds of 110 mph. The new zone could affect the location of new houses relative to the prevailing wind direction and requires more stringent construction methods than houses constructed more than one mile inland.
The new code, four years in the adopting, also increases the requirements for fastening or “tie down” of foundations, walls and roofs as a single unit to reduce wind shear or vertical lift in houses under heavy winds.
Edgartown building inspector Leonard Jason Jr. also noted changes in plumbing and electrical safety wiring and outlets that he said will add some cost to construction.
He said the state also intends to institute new licensing in July for shingling, siding, window installers, roofing and demolition work. A grandfather clause is likely to be included in the license changes, as Mr. Jason reads the prospective license procedures.
Island building inspectors processed a flurry of building permit applications before the end of the year under the sixth edition of the codes and before the new regulations took effect. Harried building inspectors in Edgartown and West Tisbury in particular processed several dozen applications by builders in the final two weeks of 2007 who were seeking to be regulated under the sixth edition building rules.
To complicate matters, the final codes were e-mailed by the state to building inspectors just before they were to take effect.
A principal cost increase for homeowners and builders will come through the cost of windows, which must now be laminated, similar to the glass used in skylights. In some cases, that could double window costs.
Windows typically account for 10 to 18 per cent of construction costs, according to an informal survey of Island builders this week.
Connie O’Doherty, owner of Butterwood Properties Inc., a high-end Edgartown contractor, reported quotes given him for a mid-range standard window would double the cost. Mr. O’Doherty noted, as did several building inspectors, that the changes in window requirements have window makers scrambling to retool in order to meet the new codes.
Despite state extension of the new code deadline from last April 1to Jan. 1, the state did not complete the code until literally at year-end. “The guys the state usually send to educate us are good. I get the feeling they are embarrassed,” Mr. Jason said.
Indeed, additions, amendments and clarifications, many by e-mail, have been trickling across building inspector desks over the past week, frustrating their efforts to answer queries clearly.
For the past week, more detail in the code has become clear as inspectors dealt with analyzing new regulations while processing permits under the old regulations. The complete building code is about 1,600 pages.
West Tisbury building inspector Ernest P. Mendenhall surmised early last week that the code will likely require more services from engineers and architects and more inspection.
“Under these regulations I’ll be at building sites at least once or twice more because of increased regulations with regard to fastening components,” he said.
Mr. Jason and Mr. Barwick concurred. Mr. Barwick noted that newer regulations for small variances in cantilevering, for example, will require an engineer’s stamp, representing a new cost for home builders.
“The code is going to require more engineering and architects, depending on the size of the house,” he said. “Simple repairs and additions will cost more.”