County Council to Overhaul Construction Codes

January 24, 2020, 11:56 AM HST (Updated January 24, 2020, 11:56 AM)
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Hawai‘i County is undertaking a phased overhaul of energy, building, electrical, plumbing and outdoor lighting codes to meet modern construction standards as required by state law.

On Jan. 22, the County Council approved Bill 126, which adopts amendments to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code into Chapter 5 of the Hawai‘i County Code. The bill next goes to the Mayor for approval.

There will be a series of bills introduced over the next six months to completely overhaul the building review process, Public Works Director David Yamamoto and Council member Sue Lee Loy said. Soon after Bill 126 becomes law, its amendments will be restructured into a new bill that will allow the consolidation of the other Public Works codes under a new Chapter 5.

“This comprehensive policy overhaul will complement the framework needed to moving us toward a one-permit system,” Lee Loy said. “This legislative package pours the foundation for providing efficient services to the entire construction industry and strengthening our island’s pathway to economic opportunities.”

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The existing Chapter 5 (Building Code), Chapter 9, (Electrical Code), and Chapter 17 (Plumbing Code), will all be repealed and its provisions will be placed in the new Chapter 5, so that future updates to the codes will be consistent with each other, using the same definitions, and will be easier to update. This bill is expected to reach the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee in the first half of 2020, depending on the timing of future public engagements and adjustments in response to those meetings.

New sub-chapters will be created to hold administrative provisions, commercial building codes, residential building codes, existing building codes, electrical codes, energy conservation codes, plumbing codes, and possibly also outdoor lighting codes. Once that bill is in place, additional bills coming later in 2020 will fill in or update those codes, with additional County amendments.

State codes are based on the fire code, the Uniform Plumbing Code, the International Building Code, the International Residential Code, the International Energy Conservation Code, and the National Electrical Code.

This year, the County faces deadlines, imposed by state law, of Aug. 21, 2020, in adopting the 2017 National Electrical Code (the Hawai‘i State Electrical Code) and the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code (the Hawai‘i State Plumbing Code). The County also faces deadlines of Nov. 13, 2020, to adopt the 2012 International Building Code (the Hawai‘i State Building Code) and the 2012 International Residential Code (the Hawai‘i State Residential Code).

Additional rounds of public engagement are anticipated, as was done prior to the introduction of Bill 126, but unlike that bill, these new codes will come with additional restrictions. The Department is cautioning that it will not accept compromised building standards that jeopardize the public’s health and safety.

“We remain steadfast on sharing this with the community and using the topic-focused briefings to alert all stakeholders and helping the design professionals adjust to these series of code revisions and adoption timelines,” said Acting Building Division Chief Robyn Matsumoto.

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