Delayed building code adoption process to cost homeowners soon

By Ava Wilhite

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) A fire at 213 East Bay had many in the community wondering why the building didn't have a sprinkler system.

"At the time that building was occupied for its use as, a bar night club, which I believe was in the mid 90s when it was first converted to that use, sprinklers would not have been required," said Charleston Fire Marshal, Mike Julazadeh, "If the building owners changed the use of the property, then current code regulations would be applied."

Even in 2010, Julazadeh said the codes in place were not exactly to date.

"We're actually on fairly old code set up at the moment, the 2006 code should have been replaced by the 2009, but unfortunately due to the process that occurred in the state, we missed that adoption process, and 2009 never came into the adoption for the state of South Carolina," said Julazadeh.

Julazadeh said the entire state uses a family of codes decided by an International Code Council. Those codes include fire codes and building codes among others. He said the codes in 2009 were not passed because a mandate requiring all new houses built to have a sprinkler system. Julazadeh said if the 2012 codes are not passed by the state there will be consequences.

"We're trying to get these codes adopted so we can keep our insurance rates low, in fact the city had hired a consultant," said Tom Scholtens, Charleston's Chief Building Official.

Scholtens is testifying for the city in Columbia during the administrative and sub-committee hearing processes in the House and Senate. He said not updating codes could cost Charleston its "good" flood insurance rate, which saves the city $3 million.

"New buildings built, it's going to cause an increase in their hazard insurance of about 2 percent, for those of us who have flood insurance it means that FEMA and the National Flood Insurance won't be offering the discounts that we already receive," said Scholtens.{}

He said not passing these codes would cost the entire state $19 million.

The legislature is working on an amendment which would not require new homes to have a sprinkler system.

It's still not clear what the exact consequences would be to the fire department if the state doesn't adopt the 2012 codes, but it's possible South Carolina could also lose a good insurance rating if nothing is done by July 1.