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North Carolina Republicans Override Veto of Bill Overhauling Construction Code Commission

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August 25, 2023

By John Boling

On August 16, 2023, North Carolina Republicans flexed their legislative supermajority muscles and created six new laws by overriding Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s vetoes of those bills. Of the six bills, House Bill 488 reformed the way construction codes are developed. H.B. 488, backed by the North Carolina Home Builders Association, was opposed by many other construction, design, safety, and environmental organizations. IIBEC sent a letter to every member of the North Carolina legislature urging them to let the veto stand and take up the reform effort again in the next session.

Specifically, H.B. 488 blocks the North Carolina State Building Code Council from updating key sections of the state building code until 2031. In the meantime, a new Residential Code Council, whose members will be appointed by both the governor and the legislature, is charged with making changes to the energy, fuel, gas, and mechanical codes for homes.

Home builders argued new energy code requirements for windows, doors, insulation, and HVAC systems would make homes too expensive, but a federal laboratory determined that the homebuilders overestimated the initial costs and that homeowners would save money over time.

Another controversial provision, highlighted in a News & Observer article, updates North Carolina’s code to require that homes built in largely coastal areas where engineers estimate wind speeds could reach 140 mph undergo a sheathing inspection while preventing local governments in all other areas of the state from requiring the inspection. Builders argue that the inspections were unnecessary because they almost all go above and beyond current requirements, using thicker plywood than required; nailing sheathing into place using a pattern that’s typically required for bracing walls that are built to withstand high winds; and waiting for an inspection that prevents them from putting house wrap around the frame, leaving it exposed to the elements. Concerned inspectors argue that after 2023 new home buyers won’t know for sure what wind speed or seismic activity their homes can withstand unless they live on the coast or know their homebuilder.