Adopt SB2335 to improve building code update process

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Government Relations on Feb. 13, 2024.

Feb. 13, 2024, 4 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 225 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Government Relations
      Sen. Angus McKelvey, Chair
      Sen. Mike Gabbard, Vice Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
           Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Aloha Chair McKelvey, Vice-Chair Gabbard and members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for the portions of SB2335 that would mandate that the State Building Code Council skip every other International Building Code cycle and require a cost-benefit analysis be conducted for every proposed update or amendment to Hawaii’s building code that would increase the cost of construction.

In addition, the cost of the cost-benefit analysis would have to be prepared “at the expense of the proponent of the amendment or update.”

Regarding skipping the cycles, state law currently requires the State Building Code Council to adopt every iteration of the International Building Code and various related codes within two years of their release.

These codes are typically updated by the International Code Council every three years. For example, its 2024 code was released in December 2023 as an update of the 2021 code.[1]

The counties, meanwhile, must adopt their own level amendments to the IBC after every state update.

However, the state and counties often struggle to adopt and amend the IBC within a reasonable time frame. For example, it was only in April 2021 that the State Building Code Council adopted the 2018 IBC[2] and it was early 2023 when Honolulu fully adopted its amendments to the 2018 IBC.[3]

Because of this staggered adoption process, county building officials and architects must constantly re-learn the building code’s requirements. The almost-constant nature of the building code updates also taxes already understaffed county planning and permitting departments.

Allowing the State Building Code Council to skip every other cycle would provide a level of certainty for builders and agencies and save the State Building Code Council and counties time from having to update the codes so often.

Regarding the proposed code updates and amendments, requiring the State Building Code Council to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of every update or amendment that would increase the cost of construction would provide a fuller picture of the possible effects of the changes.

In fact, some new building codes might impose such high costs that Hawaii would be better off not adopting them.

At the same time, proponents of such code updates or amendments might not be so eager to introduce them if they have to personally bear the cost of having them analyzed — which, of course, could further help contain construction cost increases.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1]The International Code Council Releases 2024 International Codes®,” International Code Council, Dec. 5, 2023.
[2]State Building Code Adoption,” State Building Code Council, April 20, 2021, p. 1.
[3]Interim Building Code (2018 IBC) Takes Effect,” Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, April 20, 2023.


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