Assembly Covers Design Manual for Building in Borough

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

If the City of Kodiak hopes the Kodiak Island Borough will reconsider a recent change in building code, the borough assembly has so far not made any moves in that direction. If anything, it’s educating itself more on its shift back to the 1997 Uniform Building Code.

The city and borough currently have a memorandum of agreement to share one building department, but the city has been considering the MOA’s termination. The borough reverted back from the 2012 International Residential Code to the 1997 UBC over the summer.

One of the reasons assembly members gave for the change was that it would relax engineering requirements and make it easier to build new homes in the borough. Those engineering requirements may not have been so stringent after all.

Last night at the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly work session, representatives from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, which issues loans, came to speak with the assembly.

During their presentation, they said the 2012 IRC engineering requirements were nonexistent as long as the builders meet the established process and wind requirements. That gave Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner pause.

“To hear what you guys just said about the 2012 code doesn’t have engineering requirements and it’s – okay you didn’t say it was easy – but it’s pretty easy to do a building and not have the engineering requirements. I’m still not clear why everybody in Kodiak thinks there’s engineering requirements. And I guess I don’t know if I’m looking at Jerrol… I mean, how did we end up – ”

“Rebecca,” said Borough Mayor Jerrol Friend. “That’s why I’ve been pounding my head on the table. I don’t understand it either.”

Friend, a building contractor by trade, said home owner-builders in the borough would be able to design houses according to the Wood Frame Construction Manual.

“The rule of thumb, there’s nothing in the code anywhere that says engineering is required as long as you meet the prescriptive method. The prescriptive method is lined out in the Wood Frame Construction Manual.”

John Anderson, director of research and rural development for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, said the organization could offer assistance on understanding that manual.

“And if that would help with the local builders down here, we’re willing to work with you guys to put a class together at no charge to come down and educate everybody on that manual and how it works. It’s very standard construction practice. It’s been around forever, so that manual is pretty common within the industry.”

Some of concerns when designing homes are that they hold up well to high wind speeds and seismic hazards.

For their part, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation representatives said the organization requires a third party building inspection or a jurisdiction certificate of occupancy in order for home owners to be eligible for finance.

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