Code Moves in Washington State

A new bill in Washington ushers in a new code schedule.

SB 5500 would extend the State’s code cycle to 6 years. The bill does preserve the state building code council’s ability to enact emergency statewide amendments to the state building codes under certain conditions, such as critical life and safety needs. Apparently, Washington didn’t pay attention to neighboring state Wyoming’s fling with this update schedule. Wyoming briefly went to a 6-year code cycle before switching back to the standard 3-year cycle.

The bill would also require that decisions to amend the energy code for new residential and non-
residential buildings receive the approval of at least a majority of the council. Previously, the threshold was two-
thirds. Any new measures, standards, or requirements adopted for the residential energy code would have to be “technically feasible, commercially available, and cost-effective to consumers,” though “cost-effective” is not defined in the legislation.

Because the approval threshold was lowered to a majority, it is prudent to examine who makes up the state building council membership. Council members are appointed by the Governor, who is supposed to “seek nominations from recognized organizations which represent the entities or interests identified” in the bill. The legislation reads as such:

a) Two members must be county elected legislative body members or elected executives;

b) Two members must be city elected legislative body members or mayors;

c) One member must be a local government building code enforcement official;

d) One member must be a local government fire service official;

e) One member must be a person with a physical disability and shall represent the disability community;*

f) One member must represent the general public not otherwise eligible to fill the positions listed in (a) through (d) of this subsection;*

g) Seven members must represent the private sector as follows:

i) One member shall represent general construction, specializing in commercial and industrial building construction;

(ii) One member shall represent general construction, specializing in residential and multifamily building construction;

(iii) One member shall represent the architectural design profession;

(iv) One member shall represent the structural engineering profession;

(v) One member shall represent the mechanical engineering profession;

(vi) One member shall represent the construction building trades;

(vii) One member shall represent manufacturers, installers, or suppliers of building materials and components; and

(viii) One member must be a person with a physical disability and shall represent the disability community; and

(ix) One member shall represent the general public.7

SB 5500 passed the Senate by a very narrow 25-24 margin. It moved on to the House in early March, and according to NEEA, is expected to face a more difficult road to passage in that chamber.