Homebuilders, engineers, and contractors speak in favor of Maine’s uniform building standards

By Ramona du Houx - April 5th, 2011 · 

Business owners from a variety of building-related industries gathered at the statehouse today to express support for Maine’s new Uniform Building & Energy Code. Maine’s code, similar to those in 40 other states, was adopted in 2010. Several pieces of legislation have been drafted to repeal or weaken the building code like An Act to Repeal the Maine Uniform Building & Energy Code – which has a public hearing on April 7. The businesses called on the Governor and legislators to oppose these rollbacks, describing how the code improves the business climate, reduces Maine’s energy costs, and improves the quality and safety of new homes and commercial buildings.

Speakers provided copies of a letter just sent to Gov. LePage asking him to oppose any weakening of the building code. The letter was signed by some of Maine’s leading building trade associations, representing over 1500 member businesses.

The letter stated: “This code provides much needed uniformity across the state, streamlining the development of both residential and commercial development and construction. It provides a common standard that protects consumers and helps to ensure that new buildings in Maine are created to meet at least a minimum standard for safe, sound, and energy-efficient construction.”

“The people of Maine deserve to keep the uniform building code. These minimum standards will protect consumers, reduce our dependence on oil, and provide much needed uniformity for builders and contractors,” said Carl Chretien, a builder from Saco.

According to John, president of the Associated General Contractors the code will increase the quality of construction.

“Having a single code for Maine makes it so much easer to do commercial development in the state. We want the Governor and legislators to know that this is a positive form of regulation because these are very achievable, measurable standards,” said O’Dea.

Multiple speakers agreed that it will take a little while for everyone in the building trades to get fully up to speed on the new code, but that was not a good reason to get ride of the code. The state is rapidly training and certifying existing code enforcement officials and third-party inspectors who can certify code compliance in towns that choose not to hire municipal code officials. Towns that did not previously have a building code have until July, 2012 to choose some method of enforcement.

A Maine-based analysis of the codes revealed that the incremental cost of building to the code is less than $3000 and creates net savings through energy bill reductions starting with the first monthly payment.

“The building & energy code is about costs and benefits. The costs of the code have been greatly exaggerated by some. In fact, the code saves people money. We really should be focused on the costs of not building to the code, such as more oil dependence and potentially unhealthy or unsafe homes from fire, mold or other sources,” said Ashley Richards, a builder and insulation contractor.

Last week 110 Maine-based energy efficiency companies, from architects and contractors to electricians and HVAC technicians, sent a letter to the Energy & Utilities committee asking them to make energy efficiency a top priority this session as a way to reduce energy costs and create and maintain jobs in their growing sector.