Hawaii County will not meet building code update deadline

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County officials said they will not meet a state-imposed deadline to revamp a building code, prompting two county councilors to request an extension from the governor.

Hawaii County Council Chairman Aaron Chung and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Sue Lee Loy sent a letter to Democratic Gov. David Ige requesting a one-year extension to complete the building code revision, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.

The updated county code is due by Nov. 13. Otherwise the county must use the state’s code, which is generally stricter than what the county would craft to fit its specific circumstances.

The State Building Code Council was established by the Legislature to adopt amendments to international fire, plumbing, building and electrical codes.

When the state council adopts its version of the codes, Hawaii counties have two years to make further amendments and adopt their regulations.

“The counties currently maintain compliance with the existing building codes and that ensures safe building construction and occupancy,” Chung and Lee Loy said in the Oct. 20 letter to Ige.

The code has been in place for eight years and “an extended use would not jeopardize the health and welfare of any resident of visitor,” the councilors said.

The governor’s office said in a statement Friday that building code enforcement authority lies with individual counties and the state does not have a way to enforce compliance. The office encouraged counties to craft local amendments and update codes as soon as possible.

Hawaii County has missed previous deadlines to implement construction codes.

The county did not make changes to the International Energy Conservation Code until the deadline passed last year and strict new regulations were put into effect. The regulations increased energy efficiency but also raised the price of home construction.

Councilors said the coronavirus pandemic has created difficulties this year in holding the requisite meetings to gather public input.

“As Hawaii County continues work to improve the building permit process, the last thing we need is to change the building code in the middle of a public health emergency that has made public engagement challenging,” Chung said in a statement.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


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