Grand County poised to update building code |

Grand County poised to update building code

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

With its last update in 2000, the Grand County building department proposes an adoption of the 2009 International Building Code.

The greatest difference between the older and newer residential codes, according to Building Department Official Scott Penson, is sprinkler systems required in townhomes and single-family dwellings, but Penson has opted to take out those requirements.

“I’ve deleted them out of the 2009 code,” Penson said, citing increased costs to consumers as his primary reason. He said he factored in unincorporated Grand County’s high percentage of residential wells. Water and storage for sprinkler systems, he reasoned, can create issues without a reliable municipal water source available.

After a lengthy Aug. 12 discussion about the issue, four members of Grand County’s Planning Commission voted in favor of the codes as amended, but two were opposed to deleting indoor sprinkler systems and voted no.

Planning Commissioners Sue Volk and Sally Blea stated that the sprinkler provision should not be deleted because of cost or water rates after hearing from audience member Adam Gosey of the East Grand Fire District that the majority of fire deaths occur in residential homes, according to planning commission draft minutes from the meeting.

Gosey added that long response times to some areas in the county put residents at a higher risk. On average, Gosey said per draft meeting minutes, it would cost about $1.61 per square foot to install a sprinkler system in a newly constructed home. With insurance discounts, it might take 10 years for a sprinkler system to pay for itself.

“Our big concern is fires to the exterior of the structure,” Penson said about potential fire behavior from beetle-kill. A commission made up of fire chiefs and town and county officials already has been assembled to review the International Fire Codes.

Grand County’s new building code, if county commissioners vote in favor of them, may also reflect a change in building wind exposure due to the absence of so many trees killed off by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Where Grand County traditionally was “B” rated for wind exposure, it most-likely will be rated “C” with adoption of 2009 codes, Penson said, meaning stricter requirements to make buildings sturdy enough to stand up to higher winds.

With state-mandated carbon monoxide alarm legislation in place since July 1, new codes will contain the requirement of carbon monoxide alarms for all new construction and sold properties.

And last year, the state mandated the adoption of updated energy conservation codes. Grand County expects to follow suit with official adoption of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. The updated code, which the Grand County building department has been referencing for a year, contains specific requirements for building roofs, ceilings and exterior walls such as insulation R Values and window glass U Values.

Computer modeling is available calculating efficiencies in one area of the home to allow reductions in another, Penson said.

As part of the 2009 International Residential Code, Penson also amended the allowance of LP-Gas appliances in crawl spaces, pit locations and basements below grade, with certain safety features.

Penson and the Grand County Planning Commission’s 4-2 vote also amended out sections pertaining to flood plains since Grand County does not subscribe to the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance program.

All in all, “about 80- percent of local amendments are administrative,” Penson said.

Proposed codes are available online at

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail