JASPER, Tenn. - Marion County leaders have approved new building codes for residential and commercial construction.
The Marion County Commission voted unanimously to approve the 2012 version of the International Building Code, but opted out of a section requiring residential sprinkler systems.
County building official Roy Brackett said the county had been using the 2006 code, and it must upgrade the regulations every five to seven years.
The building codes are amended every three years, County Attorney Billy Gouger said, and state law requires local governments' codes may not be more than 7 years old.
In 2010, county leaders passed over the 2009 version of the building codes because they included a provision requiring residential sprinkler systems.
That provision still exists in the 2012 version, but the state allows city and county governments to opt out of it.
While helping to protect residential homes from fire, officials said the sprinklers represented too many other unforeseen problems and would greatly increase construction costs.
"Our county, like a lot of rural counties, simply doesn't have an adequate water supply to supply water to residential sprinkler systems throughout the county," Gouger said. "They're just simply not workable in our county."
Even though the county's building code must be no more than 7 years old, he said Insurance Services Office fire ratings, which have a direct effect on homeowners' insurance, require the codes be no more than 5 years old.
"If we adopted the 2009 [codes], later this year we'd be beyond that five-year limit, and we'd be in trouble with the ISO people," Gouger said.
Initially, county leaders considered setting up a policy where the building codes would be adopted automatically with each three-year revision as an easy way to maintain Marion's ISO rating.
"In hindsight, we're not sure that's a good idea because they could include things in future versions of the code that [the board] might not want to adopt," Gouger said. "We think it's better that, as these things change in coming years, [the board] has the opportunity each time to consider each section that will be enforced in Marion County."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.