(BIVN) – Two Hawaiʻi County Councilmembers have written a letter to Governor David Ige, requesting an emergency suspension of the state-mandated November 13 deadline to update the County’s building codes.
Hawai‘i County Council Chair Aaron Chung and Councilmember Sue Lee Loy provided this news release to media:
Facing a state-mandated November 13 deadline to update the County’s building codes for the first time in eight years, Hawai‘i County Council Chair Aaron Chung and Councilmember Sue Lee Loy have written to Governor David Ige requesting an emergency suspension of that deadline to allow for ample public involvement.
The State Building Code Council was established by the State Legislature to adopt amendments to international fire, plumbing, building, and electrical codes. Once the SBCC adopts its version of the codes, the counties have two years from that adoption date to make further amendments and adopt its own update. If a county does not amend the state building codes within the two-year time frame, the state building codes shall become applicable as an interim county building code.
As originally envisioned, the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works by now would have released a public draft of the updated building code, held public hearings islandwide, accepted written comments, made amendments, and sent a bill to the Council. The Council would have held at least one Committee hearing and two readings of the Council prior to sending it to the Mayor for approval.
Restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have delayed that work, preventing public hearings and shortening the public comment period on its updates to the plumbing and electrical codes, and pushing back completion of the county’s adoption of its building codes past the November 13 deadline. As of today, the revised building codes are still in development and have not been released for public review.
“As Hawaiʻi County continues work to improve the building permit process, the last thing we need is to change the building code in the middle of a public health emergency that has made public engagement challenging,” said Council Chair Aaron Chung. “These updates to the building code could necessitate changes in designs before building permits are approved. That’s why public engagement is critical to a smooth update.”
The Hawaiʻi County Council has been working to modernize codes related to construction, adopting updates related to energy conservation in February 2020, and adopting electrical and plumbing code updates in August 2020. Also in August, the council passed a measure to reorganize the construction codes to help streamline the law.
“We have construction codes to ensure that homes, schools, business, and gathering places on our island are safe for the people who live in and use them. While updates to these codes are important, the more important question is whether we are ready for this change that may be coming with no public notice,” said Councilmember Sue Lee Loy, chair of the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee, which oversees construction codes and building permitting. “We are asking Governor Ige to help us by suspending a deadline that will bring more challenges to families trying to build homes, and to businesses trying to put working families back to work.”
The councilmembers’ request has been shared with the counties of Kauaʻi and Maui, which are also facing the same deadline, as well the State Building Code Council, the Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, construction industry stakeholders, and Hawaiʻi Island business associations.