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New building codes to shape future

As Island County continues to grow, new rules will be in place to determine the shape of the buildings that will fill it.

Beginning Thursday, the county will adopt the International Building Code to replace the Uniform Building Code. The change is designed to bring consistency to the building industry and alleviate the confusion of the old code.

“The new code is more like a cookbook to a building,” Island County Building Official Bob McCaughan said. “It’s much more user friendly.”

Among the biggest changes the new code brings is the requirements for sets of stairs in a residential home. Under the old code, stairs could be eight inches tall and nine inches deep. Under the new code, however, the height is shortened to 7.75 inches and the depth is increased to 10 inches.

The change could add as much as three feet in length to a staircase, McCaughan said. For smaller, two-story homes, the change can have a severe effect, he said.

Ted Clifton, who owns Clifton View Homes, said the new codes will take some getting used to, but the change was necessary.

“The biggest thing is organization,” he said. “You get rid of all the garbage, and now you have a nice simple code that’s easy to read and easy to understand.”

The old codes were updated every three years, which created a jumble that was difficult to follow, Clifton said. The new code book features diagrams and is easier to use, he said.

“It was so hard to figure out ‘What do they want here, and if I move a block over, what do they want there,’ ” Clifton said.

The change was widely supported by the building industry at the state level because of the consistency offered by the new code, said Jeff Tate, assistant director of the Planning Department.

The new code will also have an effect on commercial buildings. Buildings that will be designated as mixed use (residential and commercial) will be required to have a sprinkler system throughout the entire building, Tate said.

The Planning Department has developed a draft of the key differences between the two codes that could pose problems for homeowners and builders, McCaughan said. Copies of the draft are available at the planning office in Coupeville.

The city of Oak Harbor also adopted the new codes at its June 22 meeting.

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