Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NC Building Code change could have significant impacts for 4x4 homeowners

It seemed that the NC building code rule change was trying to be as quiet on this as they could despite the significant impacts that a rule change like this would have on groundfloor addtions and new construction. I am not saying I don't agree with the intent of the code here, but some more public education on it would have helped Builders, Remodelers, and (most importantly)Inspectors grasp how to adapt to the change. See an article summary below:

Flood code may raise building costs North Carolina

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© March 24, 2012
New homes in North Carolina as well as additions to existing homes must be built a foot higher off the ground in flood-prone areas under new regulations, adding an obstacle for homebuilders fighting to survive a sluggish construction industry.

The new North Carolina building code, which took effect March 1, surprised some contractors.

It requires the bottom finished floor to be one foot above where maps show the worst floodwaters would reach.

The change means additional layers of concrete block for the foundation.

Duct work for heating and air conditioning systems and electrical lines can no longer run through the crawl space. Also included are new energy-saving codes that require builders to caulk, insulate and wrap dozens of additional spots on a new home.

All of that adds up to higher costs.

And with petroleum prices rising, the cost of building materials made from plastics - such as plumbing pipes and light fixtures - have also gone up, said Duke Geraghty, an Outer Banks builder and former president of the Outer Banks Home Builders Association.

He estimated the price of a new home could rise by several thousand dollars.

"It's hitting us all at once," Geraghty said.

The Outer Banks Home Builders Association plans to petition for a change to the rules, he said.

Geraghty is preparing to start on a new house soon - his first in two years. A few years ago, he was building 20 a year, he said.

"It's not much of a recovery," Geraghty said, noting that the one house he's building is replacing a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Irene last year.

"We're getting a little more business."

Home additions have provided the bulk of the work, but now, those new rooms will have to be elevated a foot higher than the existing floors, and that could also dissuade homeowners, he said.

The new state code requires the finished floor of a new home be a foot above the base flood elevation in regulated flood zones, said Spence Castello, chief building inspector for Currituck County. The new height is called design flood elevation.

Before March, builders could build the bottom floor to base flood elevation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency defines base flood elevation as the height of floodwaters that would have a 1 percent chance of reaching that level in a given year.

Weather events of that magnitude are also known as 100-year storms, according to FEMA.

Base flood elevation depends on the ground elevation and the proximity to water, which varies. Nearly 60 percent of Currituck County lies in flood-prone areas that require flood insurance.

In most of Currituck County, base flood elevation lies between 5 and 10 feet above sea level and can vary even within the same community, according to charts on the Currituck County website.

In some places, especially along the oceanfront, where wave action is expected, the base flood elevation rises to 12 feet or more. Builders have to use federal flood maps to know the elevations at a given spot.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Corolla Finally Gets Charter School Approval

Corolla school approved by state board

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© March 2, 2012
For the first time since 1957, a school is set to open this fall in Corolla following approval Thursday by the North Carolina State Board of Education.

It was the last major hurdle for a small group of parents who worked for years to create a school on the Currituck County Outer Banks to keep their children from having to travel hours a day on a bus to and from the mainland.

"We're ecstatic," said Sylvia Wolff, a founder of the school. "It's a little bit surreal. Now we have to make this a reality."

About 30 students are expected to enroll at Waters Edge Village School. Funded by the state, public charter schools allow for greater flexibility in course work and in hiring teachers. The school would cover state-required standard subjects while making use of unique resources nearby such as the wild horses, the ocean surf, maritime forests and freshwater marshes.

The Corolla Education Foundation, the group behind the school, plans a public informational meeting at 5:30 p.m. March 12 at the Pine Island Fire Station in Corolla.

A small school for Corolla children closed in 1957 after the population there had declined to just a few families. About 30 years later, Corolla boomed as a tourist attraction.