Sussex County Council has enacted new building code standards aimed at improving safety and reducing costs.
Without the updated building code, Sussex residents were facing higher home insurance rates based on criteria established by the national Insurance Services Office. Sussex County's regulations dated back to 2003; the new regulations will be in effect Oct. 1.
Council voted 5-0 to adopt the updated 2012 editions of the International Building Code for commercial buildings and the International Residential Code for dwellings with a handful of exemptions.
Andy Wright, chief of the county's building code department, said the most significant change is the reduction of the wind zone for coastal Sussex County. He said while the area is still considered a hurricane zone, the wind rating has been reduced from 110 to 100 miles per hour for windows installed along coastal areas.
Under the current code, new buildings in the wind zone are required to be constructed with impact- resistant glass for flying debris. The new code has relaxed that rating for Sussex County and impact-resistant windows are no longer required. In the Cape Region, the wind zone includes all areas east of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
Wright said impact-glass windows cost two to three times as much as traditional windows adding up to a potential savings of tens of thousands of dollars for each new home in the wind zone.
In addition, special protection on windows – including storm shutters – is not required. “But they are still a smart investment for those living along the coast,” Wright said. “Most who live along the coast do above what we require as minimum standards.”
Wright said the other major exemption relates to automatic fire sprinkler systems in residences. Although required in the national code, council voted to exempt the systems in residential dwellings of three stories or less in Sussex County.
However, for new construction, carbon monoxide alarms will be required outside sleeping areas in dwellings where fuel-fired appliances – such as gas stove, furnaces and gas water heaters – are in use and in dwelling units that have attached garages.
Also included in the code is a new requirement for upgraded fire protection in pre-engineered floors above crawl spaces in residential buildings where fuel-fired appliances are used.
During the June 4 public hearing, several builders spoke in favor of the updated code. Schell Brothers Vice President Mark Fitzgerald said all contractors will benefit as the county and other municipalities make a change to the new regulations.
Direct questions about the updated code to 302-855-7860 or go to sussexcountyde.gov/dept/buildingcode.