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Building codes reviewed by state panel

Kentucky Heritage Council also pointed out vacant building issue

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 20, 2014) — The work that is exempt from state building and energy code standards on Kentucky historic properties was one of the key items addressed by a state legislative committee Nov. 20.

HBC LogoThe Interim Joint Committee on Local Government, chaired by the committee’s Co-Chair Sen. Joe Bowen, was told by the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction that the state’s building code includes an exemption for historic buildings being “returned or restored to their original design,” said Gary Feck, the department’s acting director. The state also exempts residential historic properties from the nationally-accepted International Energy Code, under which Kentucky operates.

“Any historic building listed on a state, national, or historic property register…is exempt from compliance with (the International Energy Code),” Feck said. The exemption does not apply to commercial construction as of this October, the department clarified.

Also exempt from state building code compliance are alterations, renovations and repairs that are considered “routine maintenance” which would exclude building additions, Feck said. Renovations that move walls, change windows or doors, etc. “are not necessarily exempt,” he said, adding that a change in occupancy of in historic building would definitely trigger compliance with the state building code – but not the International Energy Code – for new construction.

In his comments, Bowen said state lawmakers need to be mindful of how the codes are written – “there are opportunities perhaps for things to be slipped in,” he said—and that lawmakers should be vigilant in reviewing state administrative regulations used to implement state law.

“That is an important function here in the General Assembly of Kentucky,” said Bowen.

The committee also heard from the Kentucky Heritage Council, which oversees historic property preservation and tax credits for preservation work. Kentucky ranks fourth in the number of listings on the National Register of Historic Places, which the KHC reports is the “nation’s official list of resources deemed worth of preservation.”

Rep. Tom McKee expressed concern with a growing number of vacant historic buildings he sees in rural Kentucky and showed an interest in helping communities tackle the issue. “We’ve got those buildings sitting there,” said McKee.

Bowen asked officials from the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction if the agency is actively helping people “untangle” the state’s building codes so construction and renovation work can be done. The department’s General Counsel Michael Davis didn’t hesitate.

“Departmentally, I would say the answer is firmly yes,” Davis said.