(Written by Derrick Childers – NMHBA President – Originally published in the October 2010 Housing Journal)

Codes Expand as Philosophy Changes

I attended the Construction Industry Commission meeting in September and was trying to remember just how long I’ve been on the Construction Industry Division General TAC. I know the current CIC commission was not in place when I started, so it must have been just over 8 years. In that time, I’ve seen a change in the philosophy of many of the people now involved in the code change process. In one of my previous president’s messages, I pointed out that the building codes were intended to be “minimum codes” for life, safety and the welfare of the people. The New Mexico state law even says we are to adopt a minimum code. I guess it could be interpreted that any code adopted is a minimum code, but I don’t interpret it that way. My point is that we’re starting to see more code changes in New Mexico that pertain more to poor workmanship issues than to life and safety. The over-arching problem with this is the vast majority of New Mexico contractors are constructing well-built homes without these types of code changes. Once in place, most of these requirements make building more restrictive and costly. This penalizes our industry and the general public just because of a few “contractors” that don’t seem to care about the quality of their work. Some CID inspectors have told me that some builders try to see how much they can get away with, and it always seems to be the same ones.

This is bothersome to me because it reflects poorly on all the rest of the conscientious contractors. One example of this type of code change is section R404 Foundations that I wrote about in the September Housing Journal, which by the way unanimously passed the CIC in September and will be a requirement in the New Mexico Building Code. Some of these types of code changes are more specific to a problem prevalent in one part of New Mexico, but the rest of the state is penalized because of another area’s problems. The weep screed requirement is a good example of this type of code change. Most areas of New Mexico weren’t having a problem with no weep screed requirements, but because some areas of the state were not performing their work properly, we all ended up having to deal with this requirement. This means more time and money wasted by the rest of us.

I’m not sure what the solution to this growing problem is. I often wonder why some of our surrounding states that don’t have building inspections or requirements for contractor’s licenses don’t have these problems. I think it is because in those states, contractors who do poor work end up in civil suits. These issues become common knowledge to the general public. In New Mexico, these issues are dealt with by CIC and CID. Even though these proceedings are open to the public, they are seldom attended by the general public and/or the media. As a consequence, most of the general public doesn’t have a clue as to which contractors are doing a poor job. Once again, I’m not sure of the solution to this problem, but I do know that increased regulation is not the answer.

Another new requirement that may be imposed on us, which I think falls into this same type of regulation, is continuing education for contractors. Two years ago, the Legislature passed legislation requiring continuing education for general contractors but deferred the implementation date for CID to determine. We haven’t seen the written proposal that CID will present to CIC in November, but CID will be requesting CIC for approval to take the continuing education proposal to public hearings. From our understanding, CID will require 16 hrs of education in the 3-year cycle for renewing your GB98 and GB2 contractor licenses. Eight hours of education will be required to be code-related and 8 hrs will be required to be industry-related. The new twist on continuing education is that this education will need to be done by the qualifying party/parties of the license. If a qualifying party fails to acquire the required hours of education, they would lose their qualifying party certificate after a short grace period and would have to retest to acquire a new qualifying party certificate.

If done right, continuing education might not be such a bad idea. If we could concentrate on the problems inspectors are seeing around the state and concentrate continuing education on those areas, we might not see the need for these more stringent code requirements. I still think now is not the proper time to implement continuing education for general contractors due to our current economy. I’ve been told that CID may charge an additional $150 when you renew your license because of continuing education. I think this is just another tax being imposed on contractors. We may need all of your help at the public hearings if the final document on continuing education proves to be harmful to our industry. I’m sure we will be talking more about continuing education at the November Board Meeting.

It has been a pleasure serving as your state president this past year. I believe the upcoming senior leadership is going to do a great job for NMHBA.