La. Legislature Approves Building Code

The Louisiana Senate has granted final legislative passage to a mandatory statewide building code, a move that proponents said will help hold down insurance rates, improve safety and prevent future hurricane devastation.

Opponents fear the code will add to the cost of building a home and burden local governments that don’t have the resources to enforce it.

Yet the bill passed 78-25 in the House of Representatives, and the Senate concurred with the House’s version of the bill. The bill next goes to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who is expected to sign it.

The legislation calls for the state to adopt the International Building Code and the International Residential Code, model codes established by the nonprofit International Code Council, by January 2007. Some south Louisiana parishes hit by hurricanes Katrina or Rita would have to adopt wind and flood provisions of those codes within 90 days.

Although the code would be applied statewide, requirements would differ to some extent by zone, based on conditions in a given area of the state. For instance, only the extreme southeast corner of the state would have to build to withstand wind speeds of more than 130 miles per hour, while the rest of the coast would have to withstand up to 130-mph winds. Most of north Louisiana would have to build to withstand 90-mph winds.

The bill will establish a 19-member council to oversee enforcement of the code by local governments. Local governments that do not have resources or money to enforce the code will be able to contract with the state fire marshal’s office or other third parties to enforce it.