Tag Archives: Building permit

Rare Desicion to Not Adopt New Building Code Causes Stir

Rare Decision to Not Adopt New Building Code Causes Stir

The following article by Brian Walker (in its entirety, without edits, appeared December 5, 2017 in the Coeur d’Alene Press). Tune in tomorrow for my commentary.

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County commissioners’ decision to not accept the most recent version of the International Building Code for new residential and commercial construction starting in 2018 puts the county in uncharted territory, said Chris Fillios, the lone board member who opposed the move.

“I’m not sure where this goes from here,” said Fillios, adding that cities and counties adopting the code is typically a routine housekeeping matter.

Community Development Director David Callahan and Fillios said the idea and corresponding vote on Thursday by fellow commissioner Marc Eberlein and Bob Bingham to not adopt the recent codes caught them by surprise.

“What made the decision newsworthy in my view was that the board has embarked on a new policy direction for the unincorporated areas of the county in which compliance with building codes will no longer be mandatory, but will instead be voluntary,” Callahan said.

The decision does not affect construction inside city limits.

Callahan said he’s been directed to develop a plan that would move the county toward the option of voluntary implementation of the building codes similar to Boise County — population 7,028, according to the last census.

That county, in which Idaho City is the county seat, requires that home builders or homeowner select one of two options. The options include a “Basic” building permit in which there are no building inspections or a certificate of occupancy (CO); or an “Upgrades” permit that includes inspections and a CO.

Eberlein supports the format because it gives residents a choice.

“Let people make their own decisions,” he said.

Eberlein said not adopting the recent building codes cuts bureaucracy. He calls the codes a “protection racket for special interest groups.”

“I didn’t go looking for this fight, but I can’t approve more bureaucracy,” Eberlein said. “If it wasn’t a protection racket, why wouldn’t you have a five-year warranty on your house (rather than a one-year warranty)? Having a building permit also doesn’t provide you with an absolute safeguard.”

Eberlein said he supports the choice option rather than doing away with building codes altogether like in Bonner County.

“I want sideboards (on the policy decision),” he said, adding that a Bonner commissioner is now interested in the choice option.

Eberlein said he believes it’s also unfair that a farmer in southern Idaho can claim the agriculture exemption to the building code when someone in North Idaho can’t on a pole barn.

The commissioner said he realizes that most residents, including himself, would want the “Upgrades” permit on their home or business, but many would prefer the “Basic” permit on some outbuildings.

Kootenai County commissioners’ decision means the code adopted in 2015 will be in effect until Dec. 31 and there will be no mandatory building code requirements after Jan. 1. However, state-mandated electrical, plumbing, mechanical and septic inspections will still be in place.

Although Eberlein would like to see Kootenai County follow Boise County’s format, the local board has not decided on specific options on future building permit applications.

Jeff Tyler, vice chairman of the North West Property Owners Alliance, supports the commissioners’ decision in the name of property rights and less cost and regulation.

“Having the government involved in building your home does not automatically mean peace of mind,” Tyler wrote in an online comment. “In the Boise Foothills, for instance, a half dozen homes are falling apart … due to unstable ground that the Idaho Geological Survey showed as unstable in previous inspections yet the subdivision was approved anyway.

“Local cities will most likely approve the new rules, but you can now build your home in the county the way you like.”

Tyler said among the new rules for 2018 would be an increase from a 40 pounds-per-square-foot snow load to 70, which would increase the cost for a home.

Bonner and Boundary counties are other counties that don’t have building code requirements.

Fillios, who has a background in real estate, said he did not see any reason to not adopt the codes.

“To not adopt them leads us down a potentially dangerous path,” he said.

Not adopting the codes could expose homeowners to shoddy construction, decrease property values and lead to lending issues if a certificate of occupancy is not issued, Fillios said.

“If you do away with the codes, there will always be people who cut corners,” Fillios said, adding he plans to do more research into the possible implications of the board’s decision.

“My concern is that this goes far beyond limiting regulation and an ideological argument,” he said, adding that he’s dealt with more substandard construction in Bonner County than Kootenai. “When we make decisions based on ideological grounds, my concern is that could fail to consider the repercussions.”

Fillios said comparing Kootenai County, a rapidly growing area, to rural Boise County is apples to oranges.

Tyler wrote that there are banks in Bonner and Boundary that will loan to approved builders and have bank inspectors visit the site.

“This is the way homes have been built and financed long before government intrusion,” he wrote.

Callahan said the commissioners’ decision didn’t rescind existing codes. The board just declined to adopt the most recent versions of the code, he said.

Commissioners will need to hold a public hearing to rescind the current codes, Callahan said.

“I can’t really predict the timeframe for any possible hearing to repeal the existing codes as we would presumably only do so once we have a plan in place for the voluntary implementation,” he said.

Callahan said he doesn’t know what the ramifications are, if any, for the county not adopting the new regulations by Jan. 1. He declined to comment further, citing the need to confer with a county attorney to understand the next steps.

Area cities are also in the process of considering updated building codes. Post Falls, which has experienced a lot of growth, will consider the codes tonight. Mayor Ron Jacobson said he expects them to be approved as usual.

“I’m all for less regulations and you don’t want government overreach, but you also have to have guidelines,” he said.

A message left with North Idaho Building Contractors Association leadership was not returned on Monday.

 

Minimum Wind And Snow Loads

Hansen Pole Buildings is a proud member of the NFBA (National Frame Building Association http://www.nfba.org). Pretty much every Monday the Association sends out a newsletter, via email, to its members.

In today’s newsletter was a link to an article written by Stephen Szoke and published in Construction Executive, May 5, “Building Codes: One Size Does Not Fit All”. (The entire article can be read here: http://enewsletters.constructionexec.com/managingyourbusiness/2015/05/building-codes-one-size-does-not-fit-all/).

International Building CodeI got a different takeaway than most people probably did from the article. In my humble opinion, the Building Codes themselves should be consistent, however local jurisdictions should establish their own minimum climactic loading requirements (snow and wind loads) – but not tamper with the Code itself. The Code is the product of the collective minds of some of the most brilliant engineers, designers and Building Officials on the planet – they have more than a small clue as to what they are doing.

With over 7,000 Building Permit issuing jurisdictions in the United States, if each of them even altered a few words (which is not uncommon) the resultant is RDPs (Registered Design Professionals – architects and engineers) pulling out their hair trying to meet local quirks.

Getting back on track – here is what truly struck me from the article: “The rise in property losses seems to correlate well with information about a cultural/societal trend reported at the 2014 Concrete Sustainability Conference by Michael D. Lepech, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He reported that business models with an emphasis on maximum return on investment have driven or even forced businesses toward least initial cost. In construction, this appears to have resulted in a trend toward minimum code, which is synonymous with least initial cost.

Clearly, one option is to wait for the cultural-societal pendulum to swing back toward more quality and value in lieu of least initial cost.” 

In layperson’s terms – too many buildings are designed penny wise and pound foolish. It makes absolutely no sense, at least in my head, to save a thousand dollars of initial investment, if the result is spending tens of thousands of dollars in repair and maintenance costs!

The Building Codes are for design to “minimum” standards. I know, for a fact, most pole builders and pole building kit suppliers are not going to ever discuss an increase in wind and snow loads beyond bare minimums. In many cases, due to lack of Code enforcement or exemptions from structural plan reviews – the bare minimums are not even being met!

How do I know this for a fact?

Because the great majority of other people who do something similar to what we do (I won’t even lift them up to the level of calling them competitors) don’t even list the design loads on their pole building quotes!

Seriously!

Don’t ever be shy about asking how much of an added investment it would be to increase the design wind and snow loads for your soon to be new building. I want you to have the last building standing in the event of a catastrophic event

Building Official Out on a Limb

Don’t get me wrong – in case I have not previously gotten my message across in earlier articles – I genuinely like Building Officials.

Most of them really do care, and go out of their way to help both do it yourselfers and building contractors. With very few exceptions, Building Officials, field inspectors and plans checkers are not registered design professionals (architects or engineers). It is when structural concerns arise, which can get them in over their heads. Going too far out on a limb without support can be dangerous.

I was contacted by one of our clients over the weekend, who is putting up his own building. The site is in the western United States, and in his particular case the design wind speed requirement is for 105 mph (miles per hour) with an Exposure C for wind (a site which is not protected from the wind). In the west, the lumber species of choice for treated timbers is generally Hem-Fir. It takes a pressure treatment well (albeit with the need to be incised) and is fairly plentiful.

Building Column OrientationThe building plans call out for the sidewall (double truss bearing) columns to be 6×8, with the six inch face oriented towards the sides of the building.

Columns in pole buildings must be able to support combined forces from bending (the wind) and compression (weight of the roof and any applicable snow loads). In most cases, the bending forces are going to be the majority of the issue.

The reason for the contact from the client was – he placed his posts with the wrong side towards the wind!

Now in construction, things happen…..it is solving the things which keep it interesting. And in pole buildings, I can’t think of a time a challenge didn’t have one or more solutions.

The client was told by his building official, “normally a 6×6 is sufficient” and he would sign off on the posts the wrong way, as long as we provided a letter stating so.

Our proprietary pole building design software gives the calculations for every component of the building. In this scenario, the columns needed to resist a ground line moment of 37,184 inch-pounds (for more on “moments” please read: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/09/bending-moment/).

Oriented properly, the 6×8 has a section modulus (Sm) of 51.563 inches. Sm is derived by squaring the depth of a member, multiplying by the width of the member, and then dividing by six. The calculations showed the columns, as designed, to be stressed to 98.4% of capacity.

Turn the column the wrong way, and the Sm is reduced to 37.82 inches and it is now overstressed by 34.2%!! Same timber. Wrong direction. Wrong answer.

BTW (by the way) – the Building Official’s 6×6 scenario would be overstressed by 83%!!

The client does have some options:

The building official could sign off on the columns as placed, making him now the designer of record (I would not recommend he do so).

In cases such as this, building officials could agree to allow the building to be designed for a lesser wind speed and exposure. At 90 mph and Exposure B, the columns would work in the orientation they were placed.

The columns could be pulled out of the ground and placed the correct direction.

Or, we could come up with a repair – which could prove to be difficult and costly. It will depend mostly upon how far along the construction process is.

Moral of the story, the direction any column is to be placed in a pole building is specified on the plans. It is not a suggestion. There are valid structural reasons it must be oriented exactly as designed. This is one place where a mistake is not so easily corrected, as the columns are literally set in stone (concrete).

Planning Department: Get Permission!

Planning Department – Get Permission First, Don’t Beg Forgiveness

Every once in a while I read a story and it just makes me wonder, “What were they thinking”?

The story below appeared February 25, 2014 in a Post-Tribune article written by Kitty Conley:

Variance granted for pole barn already under construction

 CROWN POINT — The Lake County Board of Zoning Appeals gave its approval to Robert Biocic on Feb. 19 for an extra-sized pole barn, construction of which had already been started without the owner checking with the county for permission.

The project was noticed and Biocic was told to stop for not having gotten the approval. The fine for starting the project without a permit is considerably larger than the cost of getting the permit in the first place. It is three times the cost of the permit based on the value of construction. Then he still has to pay for the permit fee, according to Steve Nigro, planning and building administrator for Lake County.

Planning DepartmentIn addition to getting the required building permit, Biocic needed a variance-of-use for putting up a building of 3,134 square feet, where only 1,302 square feet are allowed.

The variance was granted by the BZA for construction on the 1.2 acres at 12952 W. 181st Ave. in West Creek Township.

All I can say is this building owner was extremely lucky. He could very easily have been forced to tear down his partially constructed building!

It is so easy to play by the rules. Start with your jurisdiction’s Planning Department….before considering building anything.

To know what to do at the Planning Department: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2013/01/planning-department-3/

Notice, the route taken by Mr. Biocic was not an inexpensive one – he was fined three times the cost of the Building Permit!

What the article does not say is – I am wondering if this building owner’s life is going to be made miserable during the inspection process. Planning and Building Departments do not look favorably upon those who do not play by the rules!

Are Building Codes Changed too Often?

(Disclaimer: for those dear readers who are not Christian, the reference to the Bible below is merely for illustrative purposes, and is not an attempt to sway anyone to or from any particular religious practices or beliefs.)

Imagine, if you will, the Bible being revised every three years. Once the revisions were accepted by the scholarly experts and the newest version was printed, each division of Christianity could decide if and when they wanted to adopt the newest version and they could also edit it as they pleased.

Once your church approved a version, it would be up to you and your fellow believers to have to learn it all over again. Sometimes changes would be small, other times large. And about the time you figure it out – there would be another new version.

Sound confusing?

Well, this process is the way the International Building Codes work. Every three years, there is a new version available. Building Officials, Architects and Engineers, as well as builders get to learn everything all over again!

International Building CodeThe NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) and the AIA (American Institute of Architects) have written to the ICC (International Code Council), recommending a longer interval between published Code revisions. The feeling is it would make it easier and less expensive for those affected, as well as easier to manage the changes.

Right now, we have a client who purchased a pole building kit last Spring. When he placed his order, the applicable Code version in his state was the 2009. July 1, his state adopted an amended version of the 2012 Code. He did not apply for his permit promptly, so had to have an entirely new set of plans and calculations produced. Among changes between the versions of the Code, was an increase in design wind speed from 85 to 115 mph (miles per hour)!

While there is some push to increase the time frame between Code versions, it probably will not happen. The reason for frequent changes is the rapid outmoding due to new technologies and building practices.

Think of it this way, a cell phone purchased today will be easily obsolete in three years – same goes for building codes.

What can you do so you don’t end up like our client? Make sure there are no “lag times” between the time you first talk to the building department about what building code design criteria you need to follow, the time you purchase your building, and the time it’s constructed and “final inspection” is done.  And keep in contact with your building department should you encounter any delays.

Don’t Pick Fights with Plans Examiners

For the most part, Building Department Plans Examiners are really good people. Most of them are just trying very hard to do a job which gets little or no appreciation.

magnifying-glassThe primary responsibilities of plans examiners are to review building plans and specifications and double-check all calculations to ensure they comply with currently adopted codes. Once completed the examiner should determine the fees for a building permit, and then approve or deny building permit applications. Plans examiners will also need to inspect alterations to existing buildings and make sure any extensions or changes comply with the adopted codes. Your plans examiner will occasionally respond to questions from engineers, developers, property owners and architects regarding adopted codes.

To become a plans examiner a person needs a combination of education and experience. Typical requirements are a high school diploma and at least six years of experience in building design, construction or inspection. Usually, they should hold an International Code Council certification as a building plans examiner or at least have the ability to obtain one.

Building construction is a complicated process, and the expectation any one person will know everything about everything, is unrealistic. On occasion, a plans examiner will reject a portion of the submitted plans, or calculations. If so, the plans examiner should be requested to provide (in writing) justification of the section of the building code which they believe has been violated, along with a justifiable technically substantive reason for the violation and the needed technical information to cure the violation.

These requirements keep plans examiners from making arbitrary and/or seemingly capricious rulings, and by requesting they follow the same, keeps the plan review above board and moving smoothly forward.

It also means homeowners fully complete required upgrades or changes to comply with codes. After all, this person is a servant of the public – protecting “life, fire and safety” for you, and those you love.

Pre application Conference

construction planning meetingConsidering construction a post frame building for commercial use? If so, many jurisdictions offer a pre application conference which will greatly ease the overall permit process, as well as providing a total view as to all of the requirements necessary to be met.

Why should I go through a PAC?

In my humble opinion, if a pre application conference is an available option – take advantage of it, It can save boatloads of future grief, not to mention unexpected pitfalls and costs.

What does a PAC involve?

A Pre Application Conference (PAC ) is a preliminary evaluation of a project by staff from various the various departments and divisions, which will be involved with a potential project. Staff represented may be from several departments, which may include: Planning, Building, Fire, Public Works, Health, and Water and Power. In some instances a Case Manager is assigned who will facilitate the PAC and provide a single point of contact to help navigate through the entire review and approval process.

PAC Meeting Agenda

At the PAC meeting, the staff will meet to discuss project issues and requirements of the proposed project according to current regulations, guidelines and policies. It is an opportunity for the staff to identify any discretionary reviews and approvals necessary, inform of any possible conflicts with policies and regulations, and, if necessary, offer other options to pursue in lieu of those proposed. A flow chart outlining the course the proposed project will need to take through the review and approval process is also provided. All documentation, including applications, brochures, submittal requirements, fee estimates, a flow chart, and review comments related to the project are provided often in an organized packet called the Development Guide. The information derived from a PAC does not constitute any approval of a project. PAC meetings are not public hearings.

What sort of things might be brought out at a PAC?

Highway/roadway/public works people will advise if the street may need to be widened, turn lanes added, as well as requirements for curbs and sidewalks. Having had to pay for all of these items in projects I was personally involved in, it is best when they are known about upfront.  After the fact… they can be potential budget breakers.

Fire – how close can a proposed new pole building be from other structures or property lines before fire walls need to be considered? Does the property have adequate water flow available for fire prevention? In some cases, an alternative water reservoir may need to be added. A hydrant (or hydrants) may need to be included for the development. If fenced or gated, a Knox-Box® will probably be required.

What else do I need to do?

Planning will deal with percentage of the property which can be covered with structures, dimensions of the building(s) as well as heights, setbacks from property lines, roadways and easements. They may require an engineered site plan, as well as provisions for storm water runoff. Requirements for parking spaces can be determined.

While these are just a few of the involved parties, the areas which may be covered and potential costs can be extensive and expensive. Structural building plans are not required in a Pre application Conference.  This is the opportunity to find out what the real costs for the entire project will be.  Not just the building structural costs, which are usually just a fractional portion of the entire project.

Good luck, and let me know if this process helped to speed things along to get your permit!

My Early Urban Garage Experiences

In the 1980’s one man stood alone when it came to whether City of Portland (basically the same thing as Multnomah County), Oregon homeowners could acquire a Building Permit for a residential accessory building or not.

Charles “Chuck” Frazier

Now Chuck was a registered Structuurban pole barnral Engineer, who took his position very seriously. His expectation was, if a structural permit was going to be approved by him – then the permit applicant, better have his (or her) structural ducks lined up in a perfect row!

So fearsome was his reputation, many builders (especially those who constructed pole buildings), would put right on their newspaper ads, “We do not build in Multnomah County”.

While I never had the opportunity to meet Chuck personally, when I had my first pole building kit package business in Oregon, I had the opportunity to deal with him by phone on many what I will call “urban garages”. I was young, and pretty naïve, so early on I just asked him specifically what it was he wanted, in order to issue a permit for a pole building garage.

In a nutshell, he wanted the calculations to verify the embedment of the columns (how deep and what diameter) and for the size, grade, spacing of columns, sidewall girts and roof purlins. Not being an engineer – I asked him for an example, which he provided.

Using his example, we provided hundreds upon hundreds of pole building urban garages across Metro Portland. Portland was laid out with numerous postage stamp sized lots, many only 25 to 35 feet in width. These are especially prevalent in the Northeast area, where many single family homes were built on them after World War One and before the Great Depression. By the 80’s people found they could purchase these 60-70 year old homes for next to nothing and many neighborhoods began to revitalize themselves. One fairly consistent lacking feature of these homes – most of them did not have garages!

Pole buildings were a perfect fit for these homeowners. Many of them were relatively young, and willing to put sweat equity into the fixing up of their (new to them) older homes. Pole buildings are able to be of any dimension, and therefore allowed for the maximization of building footprint to available space. With the only foundation being holes augured into the ground, it was pretty “low tech” compared to the invasiveness of having to excavate for footings and foundations, as would have happened with what many would consider to be more traditional “stick framed”.

And, because construction goes so quick, many urban garages started Friday after work, and were completed over a single weekend!

 

 

Pole Building Planning: Details, Details!

When it comes to constructing a new pole building, the building owner has many details to consider. For instance, how large should their pole building be to meet the needs not only today, but in the future? What doors will best solve access and egress considerations? There is a plethora of choices for siding and roofing (not to mention their colors). And while the possibilities are virtually limitless, one detail which can too easily get overlooked is the permitting process.

Unexpected delays can be caused from prior work – even work which was done by a previous property owner!

If a General Contractor was hired to do earlier construction, it is their responsibility to call for final inspections on a project. Often, property owners do their own work, or act as their own contractor. Many times Building Permits have not been obtained at all, leaving new owners to pick up the pieces.

In instances where structural inspections are needed, the inspection card must be signed off and often an occupancy permit is issued.

Building Departments do not like to be “made a fool of”, and if required permits for earlier work were not obtained, they can literally put a building owner through the proverbial ringer – requiring engineered drawings of work done and special inspections. A third party engineer may be required to inspect the work and confirm it meets with current (not at the time the work was done) code requirements.

New permits cannot be issued, until all outstanding issues have been resolved. This can result in significant delays, as well as costs which were not initially envisioned.

Building owners should make a list of all the work which is to be done on their pole building, then contact their local permit issuing authority (usually Planning and Building Departments) to determine which permits will be required for their particular scope of work. If a contractor is involved, the building owner should verify for him or herself all permits have been signed off on as being completed.

Keep in a safe place (fire proof safe, or in a safety deposit box) a record and copies of all blueprints, permits and inspection information. This information is important to maintain, whether the job is one, five or twenty years old.

Don’t be caught unaware, or place a future owner of the property in an uncomfortable position.

 

Verifying Design Wind Speed

A client from Florida and I have been discussing wind speeds. The data we show in our system for his county was for the design wind speed to be 120 mph.

Now where do we get our data? In many cases, direct from Building Departments. In other cases, we use the wind speed maps published in Chapter 16 of the International Building Codes, or the maps from ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) 7. The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) also lists design wind speeds, by county.

This particular client had also gotten a quote on an all steel building, and they used a design wind speed of 138 mph. At these speeds 18 mph can make a significant difference in structural design.

Now I know 18 mph does not sound like much, but in the formula to convert from miles per hour, to pounds per square foot of load, the wind speed is squared! While 138 is only 15% faster, the effective load placed on the building is over 32% more. Huge difference.

I asked the client if he had discussed the design wind load with his Building Department. He had, and his Building Department did have a solution which I was unfamiliar with. I like learning new things. I learn new “stuff” every day.

His Building Official had him go to: http://www.atcouncil.org/windspeed/ which finds the design wind speed for any given latitude and longitude in the country. What if you do not know the latitude and longitude? On the same website is information on how to look it up! Technology is so great when it works.  Many thanks to this Building Official for this new “tool” I can add to my internet reference toolbox.

When Building Departments establish design criteria, those are the “minimum” design loads. When it comes to wind, I would recommend everyone use the link above to check their own actual design wind speeds. In the event the speed shown happens to be greater than your Building Department’s requirements, we would strongly recommend using the higher speed.

Many times it costs very little to increase the wind resisting ability of your new pole building. As more buildings fail due to wind, than any other cause, this is not a place to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Why Won’t You Check Design Criteria for Me?

If you had a chance to think over the weekend of why we don’t check Design Criteria for you (see Friday’s Blog), the obvious reason would be “we just don’t know where your building site is”.  This is the “down and dirty” answer.

Ultimately the more specific question clients ask me is, “will you pull my building permit for me?” The easy answer is: No.  Not today and not ever.  Why not?  When I was a building contractor, I didn’t pull permits for folks.  So let me tell you why.  When I say we “don’t know where your site is”, I mean, we don’t know anything about it.

Let’s pretend for a moment I am going to go ahead and get your design criteria along with whatever else is needed to pull a building permit for you. I’ll need to ask a few questions.  Choosing all the “right” questions to ask, of you and your Building Department, could mean the one important question I should have asked, didn’t get asked.  Don’t just assume your Building Department will hand over brochures and a list of helpful information outlining every possibility. Some jurisdictions have great websites, and some I wonder why they even bothered to put one up. And when was it last updated?  I can’t assume anything on a website is 100% up to snuff.  The person behind the county doesn’t memorize all the information specific to your building site.  And while most Planning/Building Departments are great at helping clients, there are a few who leave too much to the imagination.  They expect you (or me) to ask questions before supplying important information.  Some of them just plain don’t understand the building code.  Most Building Departments do not have a registered professional engineer behind the desk.

A few questions for you and eventually your jurisdiction’s planning department.  What are the “set-backs” from streets, alleys, other structures or anything else?  Are there restrictions as to what can be built due to zoning? How about underground septic and sewage systems or other underground utilities? Do you have watershed or wetlands issues?

If a separate department, the Building Department will have more information. Will an engineered soils test be required?  What is your wind exposure?  If you don’t know wind exposure, stand in the center of your property and extend your arms and then turn to all directions.  Is there any direction the wind can blow from where it is not stopped by hills, trees, other buildings? (This is an overly simple explanation of wind exposure by the way). Have you ever had a fire on your property, or near to your property?  Are you in a hurricane zone?  What is your elevation above sea level?

One of the most important considerations to you may be where on the property you are placing your building.  You may be able to deal with your Planning Department on exactly where your building “sits”. You intimately know your own property and the tree your great grandfather planted is just not going to be moved.  I am constantly amazed at pictures of buildings which are emailed to me, and they have a huge tree (or several) very close to the building they just put up.  I am thinking, “It must have been a bear to construct a building with a big ol’ tree right next to the site. Why didn’t they just take the tree down?”  But if the “big ol’ tree” Great Grampa planted is “not going anywhere”, you need to be the one to take this issue up with your local planning department to come up with an agreeable solution.

Why won’t I verify your design criteria or pull your permit?  Because I want to meet you on the street someday and have you smile at me, shake my hand, and we will still be friends.  Your building ended up being what you needed, and better yet, it ended up exactly where you wanted it.  Life comes in a rainbow of colors, not just shades of black and white.

Why Design Criteria are Important

Last October Mr. W of Park County Colorado ordered a new pole building kit package from Hansen Buildings.

Just like every quotation or Invoice we prepare, it lists specifically the “Design Criteria” for his specific building.

Included in this were:

The Building Code and edition (every three years a new edition of the code is published, often with significant changes from the prior edition).

Flat Roof Snow (also known as Pf) – which is calculated by applying a series of factors to the Ground Snow Load (Pg). In some cases, in exception to the way the codes are written, a Pf value is stated by a particular Building Department.

Design Wind Speed in miles per hour (mph) as a three second gust, as well as Wind Exposure.

Allowable Foundation Pressure, as well as the general soils types which the given pressure would be applicable to.

Seismic zone.

Maximum frost depth of this design.

Thermal factor (Ct) and whether the building is heated or unheated. This factor is one of the influencing values in the calculation of Pf from Pg.

Occupancy Category (I, II, III or IV) – each of which corresponds to a factor which will influence the magnitude of snow, wind and seismic forces which the building much be designed to withstand.

Every quote we provide includes this statement directly below the design criteria:

You must confirm all code/design criteria with your Building Department prior to placing your order.

We recommend taking this page to your building department for them to verify all design criteria listed above.”

In ordering the building, the Purchaser must agree to the following as a portion of the terms and conditions:

Purchaser acknowledges verification/confirmation/acceptance of all Building Code, Plan and Design Criteria included on Instant Invoice. Information Purchaser has verified includes, but is not limited to: Applicable Building Code version, Occupancy Category, Ground (Pg) and Flat Roof (Pf) Snow Loads, Roof Snow Exposure Factor (Ce), Thermal Factor (Ct), basic Wind Speed (3 second gust) and Wind Exposure, Allowable Foundation Pressure, Seismic Zone and Maximum Frost Depth, as well as obtaining for Seller any unusual code interpretations, amendments or prescriptive requirements for non-engineered buildings which could affect this structure. If purchase is a non-engineered building, reasonable efforts have been made to assure structural adequacy, however no guarantee or warranty is made or provided by Seller as to whether this design actually meets with any applicable code or structural requirements. The ultimate responsibility for verification rests with Purchaser. Any costs due to changes or requests by Purchaser, Purchaser’s agents, or Building Officials to non-engineered plans will be borne by Purchaser, including any and all of Seller’s staff time for research, or any other reason, even if no changes are ultimately made. Staff time is billable at a minimum of $120 per person hour, with a one hour minimum.

 

Seller’s designs are all per specified Building Code and include the use of NDS Table 2.3.2 Load Duration Factors (Cd) as well as ASCE 7-05, Eq. 7-2 for slippery surfaces. Seller’s designs rely solely upon occupancy category and structural criteria for and at specified job site address only, which have been provided and/or verified by Purchaser. It is Purchaser’s and only Purchaser’s responsibility to ascertain the design loads utilized in this Agreement meet or exceed the actual dead loads imposed on the structure and the live loads imposed by the local building code or historical climactic records. Purchaser understands Seller and/or Seller’s engineer(s) or agents will NOT be contacting anyone to confirm.

 

Now if the above sounds harsh, keep in mind, we have provided buildings in all 50 states. There are over 7000 building permit issuing jurisdictions in the country and to keep absolutely current with any and all changes, is an impossible task.

Remember our good friend Mr. W from the beginning of this story? Mr. W’s county has on their website a form to complete, where they will verify the snow load criteria for anyone’s particular piece of property. While a pretty handy tool, it seems Mr. W did not use it.

He ordered a building, which we designed to the loads Mr. W confirmed he had verified. The plans were submitted and a permit to build was issued.

Now Mr. W has his building up and has called for final inspection. The inspector, in the field, notices the trusses are designed for a Pf of 50 psf (which matches what Mr. W ordered as well as the values on the approved plans). The problem…..the site is one where the flat roof snow load should have been 73 psf!

Mr. W now has a beautiful new building, which he cannot use. At least as it is presently built. The ultimate solution is going to involve a significant (as well as costly) repair to the trusses, as well as adding roof purlins between each purlin currently installed on the roof.

This is a case where an ounce of prevention (Mr. W having actually verified his loads as instructed) would have been well worth the pound of cure.

The question we sometimes get is, “why don’t you verify the loads for me?”  Come back Monday and I’ll tell you why.  Until then, think of the reasons we may or may not want to do this for you.

Pole Building Prescriptive Requirements

In a misguided effort to make things “easier” for potential building owners and builders, some Building Departments have prescriptive requirements for non-engineered pole buildings.

This means if someone walks in the Building Department door and wants to construct a pole building, as long as the building owner (or builder) agrees to build to match the prescriptive requirements, they will be issued a structural permit. This is, of course, with the caveat of being able to meet the requirements of other departments, such as Planning.

WHY IS THIS BAD?

Prescriptive requirements are often based upon, “the way things have always been done”, rather than having a basis in the sound fundamentals of structural design. Every three years a new version of the Building Code is published, sometimes with sweeping changes in structural design. Many highly qualified design professionals, including many engineers, are involved in revisions of the Building Code.

A classic example of this came when the International Building Codes were first adopted in 2000. Prior Codes did not have deflection criteria for wall members in those cases where the members did not support a rigid finish (like plaster or gypsum board). The new Code limits the deflection in all cases. In order to meet the new requirements, in many cases, pole building wall girts can no longer be installed “flat” on the outside of the wall columns.

Many times materials are included in the prescriptive requirements which do nothing but cause more work for whoever is doing the actual construction, as well as using materials which either are not necessary, or are larger than what an engineer would have specified.

On occasion, these prescriptive requirements do not actually meet the Building Codes. In my spare time, I have challenged more than one of them and gotten Building Departments to make changes. The prescriptive requirements resulted in a building which was under designed.

The scary part….if you build to prescriptive requirements, and have a collapse, the Building Department is absolved from any structural liability!

THE SOLUTION – IF a Building Department has PRESCRIPTIVE REQUIREMENTS for Pole Buildings – invest in an engineered building kit. It is less expensive to pay for the engineering and it guarantees a building which will be designed to actually meet the building codes.  Your bonus is the sealed plans are your “insurance’ – the engineer is now liable to for the safety and integrity of your new building.

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