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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Code Inspection Isn’t Working

Most building inspectors lack the training needed to implement the energy provisions of the building code

When energy codes become more stringent, homeowners' energy bills are lowered. But new code requirements are meaningless if the code isn't enforced. [Photo credit: Taunton Press]

Builders love to argue about their local building code. Some may think that the code’s energy provisions are too strict; others may think they’re too lax. But all of these arguments are moot if the building code isn’t enforced.

It turns out that in most U.S. jurisdictions, building code enforcement is a mess. There’s a long list of reasons why local authorities fail to enforce codes. For example, some states, including Vermont, have no enforcement mechanism at all for residential building codes. While code compliance is technically mandatory, compliance is voluntary. (Most Vermont towns don’t even have a building department or a code enforcement official.) In other states, building officials may be so overworked that adequate enforcement is impossible. And in the majority of U.S. jurisdictions, code officials are so poorly trained that they lack the basic skills needed to enforce the code’s energy provisions.

For example, almost all building codes require new homes to have a Manual J heating and cooling load calculation. Yet most Manual J reports submitted to local building authorities are, to put it charitably, totally bogus. Contractors routinely fudge the numbers on Manual J reports (meaning that most new homes have heating and cooling equipment that is significantly oversized)—yet most building officials never notice the bogus inputs. Contractors are confident that their Manual J reports won’t be read or understood, so they continue to fudge the numbers.

While oversized heating and cooling equipment won’t necessarily result in higher energy bills, insufficient insulation will. That’s why another example of building official incompetence—the acceptance of bogus “performance path” energy reports from a Pennsylvania company called Energy Modeling Agency—is more likely to hurt homeowners than the acceptance of bogus Manual J reports. The founder of Energy Modeling Agency—a…

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37 Comments

  1. Kathy Lanier | | #1

    As a California consumer and first-time homebuyer, reviewing inspection reports can be the last priority in the competitive process to buy real estate. Yet, I did. A lot of remodels that we reviewed were done without permits and some had no proper attic ventilation and still received bids over $800K, in Oakland, CA. We looked at a new all-electric build but first joined the FB group and there were so many construction complaints. Yet, the bids for these townhomes went above $700k.

    I think a lot of people bought during the shelter in place and might have buyers remorse (I think I saw a NYT article about it) once they realize the upgrades to the house that are needed.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #2

      Kathy,
      It sounds like you are talking about inspection reports written by home inspectors hired by prospective buyers during a real estate transaction. This is an entirely different process than the type of inspection discussed in my article -- namely, inspections of new homes by code officials employed by local building departments.

      That said, you're right on both points: inspection reports written by home inspectors who are hired during a real estate transaction (a) often fail to note significant defects and (b) are sometimes ignored by home purchasers.

  2. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #3

    Martin,

    Being lucky enough to live in a jurisdiction with competent building inspection only proves your point. Code changes and diligent inspection have lead to huge improvements in the quality of new homes in BC. Over the years plan examiners and inspectors have caught all sorts of errors and omissions on both my drawings and on site. Like any other improvement, the path towards a good working system is fairly straightforward, but needs buy-in by all the affected parties, and considerable political will to implement.

  3. David Kaiser | | #4

    *sigh* - This is a topic very near and dear to my heart as I worked for 6 years IN an energy code enforcement as part of the building department (Just the fact that we had dedicated staff for the energy code is extremely rare as it is).

    Our compliance systems just don't work when it comes to the energy requirements:
    - as stated, there just aren't enough code enforcers looking at buildings (let alone the energy code)
    - because the builders know that no one really will be enforcing anything, they don't have any reason to care, outside of just buying what is available
    - owners don't understand energy or energy efficiency, so they would have a hard time blaming a builder for a high bill. If they do, the builder can just say the owner set the thermostat up too high (i.e. prove-it!)
    - energy doesn't cost enough to make the payment of lawyers financially viable in order to sue builders for energy deficiencies.
    - there are no courts like traffic courts for building code violations, and if there are there are hardly any energy code violations.

    My experience-based estimate is that people are really only getting a 50% compliance rate out of the energy code. Production builders are probably higher, at around 75-80% compliant, because they are more susceptible to class-action law-suits where multiple owners come together to sue.

    But in the end, government has failed on energy code compliance. If anyone wants to fix this, then either a) they need a long term influx of money to the building department dedicated to energy code enforcement or b) they need to think outside the ICC delivery - building department methods. ICC's latest faux-pas by diluting government votes is likely going to push localities that can towards implementing their own taxes on carbon, or building performance requirements through the tax code. Though competition between cities for business and tax dollars will likely stop them when push comes to shove. I.e. the Federal Government would be helpful here to remove said competition...

    I really don't know any other viable alternative to the Federal Government's involvement on the issue... :-( I can tell you I am not confident anything will be done of consequence.

  4. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #5

    As I recall, the federal government did step in an required states to adopt the 2018 IECC if they wanted access to certain pots of federal dollars. Or at least that was the explanation I got when NJ adopted the 2018 IECC outside of their normal code update schedule. But even if the Feds did get all of the states to adopt the IECC, that doesn't mean they enforce it.

    NJ seems to do a better than average job of code enforcement in general. But they do a terrible job of enforcing energy code stuff, and for some reason they don't even try to enforce HVAC codes. I have never seen a Manual J submitted for HVAC installations. Never. The Architects all demonstrate compliance using ResCheck and everyone pretends that this suffices for the Manual J. They also ignore the fact that most of the inputs in ResCheck are bogus. **sigh* Energy compliance is just not on the front burner, even in reasonably aggressive enforcement jurisdictions.

    1. David Kaiser | | #6

      I agree with your sentiment, but if anything is to be done to improve the actual implementation of the energy code somehow the federal government is going to have to get involved.

      I just dont foresee situations where localities have the spine to start funding/ actively supporting energy code enforcement.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #7

        David,
        I'm aware that the political climate in Canada differs from that in the U.S., but it's worth pointing out that British Columbia managed to implement better building code enforcement on a province-wide level -- in other words, without waiting for a mandate from the national government. Similarly, California forged its own path without waiting for federal mandates.

        1. David Kaiser | | #9

          I do think there is benefit there to work at the state-and-local level with codes, but there comes a tipping point when companies especially look at their books and say, "it would be cheaper to do it somewhere else" because they dont have that regulation. Look at what is happening with major companies in California. The competition between states and localities for jobs really snuffs out a lot of the political will for things like the energy code.

        2. Jaccen | | #20

          While true about BC, all the provincial codes are heavily based upon the National Building Code:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Building_Code_of_Canada

          Some go a bit beyond but to my knowledge, they all use the NBC as a minimum.

          Part of why I believe enforcement is taken rather seriously here:
          1. There have been cases where municipalities have been found negligent in their inspection of buildings. Here in Oxford County, one of the townships was found deficient in their inspection of a barn after it collapsed due to snow load and partially liable for the insurance damages The engineering was found to be sound; the construction and inspection were found lacking. The farmer is notorious in his attempts to, uh,.............find "economic efficiencies".......aka cut corners. Since the lawsuit, the Township was FAAAAAAR more stringent in the inspection of his next barn as you can imagine.
          2. If municipalities are able to be found liable, they will charge the necessary amounts to provide inspection and municipal services in the fast-developing sector. For example, muni fees in Middlesex County have increased quite a bit compared to last year. We had a big push to get out permits for builders by a certain date as subdivision single lot residences (aka tract housing) development fees were increasing from $3400 to $24,000 (Canuck bucks) per lot.

          Canadians, as a percentage of their income, pay more for housing than our friends to the south. When you pay that larger amount, you demand that the product meet code or a general expected level of performance.

          "Our heating gas bill was how much? But Bill and Suzie next door only paid 1/2 that!? What's going on here? Who was our builder again? I'm making a Tario insurance claim!"

          To be fair, there is still a lot of education needed by the general public (ie. in regards to energy efficiencies). After 40 years of implementing increasing energy efficiencies in the Code, it just becomes 2nd nature to contractors.

  5. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #8

    In our increasingly litigious societies it's also worth remembering that if you live in an area where codes have been enacted but are not enforced, you are probably still subject to them, and can be held liable for shortcomings in a building that doesn't meet relevant codes.

    A local example we are seeing here are small ADU's built without permits under the misapprehension they aren't necessary. Owners are finding that their insurance does not cover them, and their non-approved (or approvable) sleeping lofts, wood stoves, and egress windows make the buildings legally uninhabitable.

    1. David Kaiser | | #10

      You can be held accountable if there is verifiable damage or safety risk. Outside of that, most everybody - code officials, real estate agents, builders, buyers - are just going to look away even if they know better. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but it's really not great in terms of energy code compliance out there.

      1. Expert Member
        Malcolm Taylor | | #11

        David,

        I don't think you are being a wet blanket at all. I take your point and Martin's - compliance and enforcement sound like a real mess. I have no idea what would change things. I suspect a lot of the push-back is cultural.

        That said, I do know improvement is possible, and it happened here.

        1. David Kaiser | | #12

          Maybe Canadians have the benefit of NOT being a global super-power, thus all avoid much of the power-hungry squabbling, and can instead focus on what actually makes their lives better? Logic, experience, and giving a @%#& might be more accessible.

          The cold temperatures and wild terrain (in parts) might also result in people being more open to each other as people will occasionally need each other to survive from time to time: push cars out of snow, borrow supplies and equipment. You can share struggles. Here, it is possible to melt into the suburbs, and never speak to your neighbors for 30 years. Most of our struggles seem to be of our own making - pick your own passion style.

          Enough philosophizing...

  6. Andy Kosick | | #13

    When it comes to energy and performance, I'm convinced the only answer is accountability to hard metrics and possibly customer feed back. Home performance is complex and builders and contractors have to WANT to achieve clear goals from the design stage. That means hard metrics people understand to compare so authorities and home buyers can demand results and builders can figure out how best to get there. How many other industries out there create great products with out feed back from tested and measured results. It's almost embarrassing really to see how many builders operate.

    The government should collect and publish these metrics. Projected usage, Blower door results, and a year of *measured* usage, all published. Personally I think the line should be set with energy use per occupant, not square feet. People will yell "Occupant Behavior", but this will help check that as well. Utilities are already sending people letters that compare them to their neighbors and efficient technologies are reducing the effects of occupants as well. The sea of data will help normalize that out over time, and for that matter, if you're not designing to try and neutralize the effects of occupants in terms of energy use, you're dong it wrong.

    As a HERS Rater I can tell you that the incentive structure of that system is all wrong for new homes. There's a lot of issues out there.

    With the government writing the checks for hard-to-cheat metrics that builders have to hit and homeowners can reference, we have got the best chance of driving excellence in the industry.

    -I have to give credit where it's due, Nate Adams and Ted Kidd have helped changed my mind on this and if you're not following the HVAC 2.0 stuff you should be. It's the only idea I've seen with a chance of changing residential HVAC, and scaling the electrification of existing homes in the needed time frame. Code Manual Js aren't going to do it. Although, I'm always open to ideas.-

    1. Expert Member
      Malcolm Taylor | | #14

      Andy,

      I agree, but I think this is something that a vanishingly small portion of the population or industry cares about. In an ideal world there are a lot of issues that could warrant the type of intensive oversight and education you are proposing, but perhaps some more attainable solution of incremental improvement of the existing way we build might be more achievable and realistic.

      1. Andy Kosick | | #15

        Malcolm

        I'm glad you agree, but you're too pessimistic.

        -I think home buyers would be very interested in a code that holds builders accountable to their designs with real numbers. So much so, that even with an opt-out available few probably will.

        -The industry doesn't have to care, we're not asking them to do better we're telling them.

        -We are so far from ideal right now, I don't think we have to worry about that word for while. What I'm proposing is actually far less intensive system than what we are trying to do right now and there is no education involved at all. Proposed usage doesn't look much different than the ResCheck builders do now and we won't actually care how builders generate that number, as long as it hit the mark, because they are accountable to results at the end. Blower door tests are happening we just publish result. Measured usage a year later could be fully automated with smart meters. The builder, homeowner, and inspector receive a report. The inspector has to know literally nothing about energy features, the builder has to figure it out. No more inspecting insulation, air sealing, equipment efficiencies.

        -There is no official education involved here, because, again, it's up to the builder to figure out how to meet the target. A curious homeowner could spend a weekend on GBA and Youtube and know more about air sealing than half the builders in the country. This isn't about knowledge it's about motivation.

        - "attainable" "incremental" "existing way" "realistic" Nope. This is going to be uncomfortable, so everyone is trying to avoid it. Homeowners need a structured way to hold builders account to real energy performance. The market has shown itself unable to provide this, and we won't see results until we have accountability to real numbers.

        1. David Kaiser | | #16

          Andy Kosik. Yes please. Performance metrics per taxable occupant.

          The problem is how does that become code/law without inviting inter-county/state competition? I.e. "hey businesses and homeowners, we here in X county have less regulation unlike Y county which is doing something really hard. Live here/ work here instead."

          1. Andy Kosick | | #17

            A legitimate concern, but no different than any regulation. It would be best at the state level to be sure. I think this concern underestimates how much business and homeowners will want this. It's the builders who won't like it, and then, only the builders unwilling to up their game. Make no mistake, this should weed out poorly performing builders.

          2. Expert Member
            Malcolm Taylor | | #19

            David,

            "Per taxable occupant".

            Wait now - how does that work? Who is taxing them? Does the energy usage by non-taxable occupants not count? Do homeowners have to report who lives with them and for how long? If useful metrics require this level of intrusion and bureaucracy then they are surely unworkable. It's like trying to tackle widespread obesity by requiring everyone to file data on exactly what they ate each month.

            The other thing that strikes me is that the whole proposition seems to assume owners aren't getting energy usage data. But everyone currently knows what they spend. They get utility bills.

          3. David Kaiser | | #27

            Malcom Taylor, what I would suggest for measured performance as related to taxable occupant, is to integrate automatically generated utility data (gas and electric) into a database the correlates it to the address associated with the local taxes. In this way you get the taxable occupants, the square footage of the home (just talking about residential for the time being), and the energy use all in one place. A computer program would basically integrate all this information (annual energy-use/square foot/taxable occupant), and compare it to the threshold. If you are under the threshold, no tax that year. If you are over the threshold, a tax would be applied by the percentage above the threshold.

            So in theory, there would not have to be any building code enforcement at all. It would just be all computer generated compliance, and the results would show up in your annual tax bill. I am only proposing this for new construction, not existing. Anyway, in this way, you avoid the building department's funding issues all together.

            There are difficulties with this approach because it starts to apply how a building is actually used instead of ONLY how it is built. However, I am sure such things could be worked out. There is benefit in having a true performance approach too, as maybe occupants would be more careful about turning off lights/ appliances/ thermostat settings when not at home or not in-use.

        2. Expert Member
          Malcolm Taylor | | #18

          Andy

          "if you're not designing to try and neutralize the effects of occupants in terms of energy use, you're dong it wrong."

          I wish you would expand on that. Let me give you an example from my recent experience. Four years ago I built a house that is heated primarily by a wood stove. The owner keeps two windows open year round and the inside temperature is about 67F. He also takes two baths a day. Suppose instead an owner who was less enthusiastic about feeding the stove, who relied on the electric resistance back up to keep the house at 72F, kept the windows closed, had a brief daily shower, but whose woodworking hobby meant much higher plug loads. What does monitoring the energy use of that house tell us? How would I design out the variation?

          Now let me expand that out down his street. The house on one side is currently used as a weekend residence. The one on the other side is occupied full time by a couple who work from home. The one just beyond has a small marijuana grow-op in the basement.

          1. Andy Kosick | | #21

            Malcolm

            What I would say is that we are always concerned about outliers, but shouldn't be. Someone always has that story, but my experience is that most people's behavior in homes doesn't vary as much as we think. A big data set would tell this tale more clearly, all the more reason to do this. Of all the new homeowners in the US this year, how many heated with wood, and of those how many leave two windows open all winter?

            Designing it out means that problems with houses effect peoples behavior in them more than we give credit for. To start with, high performing envelopes and HVAC are more comfortable and people tend to leave things alone, where thermostat settings do vary it has less effect on energy use. We have the ability to use well designed LED lighting which minimizes variation there. Ventilation should effective, automated, and maintained, so little variation there. It comes down to plug loads, maybe hot water. For those outliers, energy monitors are cheaper than ever ($150 for 16 circuits), if I where a new home builder, I'd have one on every house for a year. Cheap insurance against home owner complaints, and excellent design feed back.

          2. David Kaiser | | #28

            What I would suggest for things like wood-shops, hot-tubs, etc. is that somebody make a sub-meter that talks to the appliance/ workshop/ hot tub in question. Sort of like the utility demand programs where the utility can send a signal to the appliance to turn off for a half-hour or so, but instead of the utility sending a "stop" signal, the utility would read the energy use of the appliance over that month. In that way you could start to account for extra end-use loads and put them on the exempted or regulated end-use load for energy consumption.

  7. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #22

    Andy, I'm not trying to be difficult, and am certainly hopeful there is some way to improve things, but I don't think dismissing occupant behaviour is realistic. The outliers in our societies aren't the average home owners, they are and will continue to be the enthusiasts who come to GBA.

    My sister was in charge of environmental science for a large city near me. One of her jobs was estimating water usage by household. What she found was that estimating on aggregate was quite simple, but doing so on an individual basis was almost impossible, as it varied wildly even in similar households - and the differences eclipsed any water saving measures the city implemented.

    Designing in more efficiencies makes absolute sense. Testing and monitoring vacant houses before occupancy also may be useful. I'm simply not convinced using energy use data once it's occupied yields anything you can do anything about - and I can't see how an occupant could use that information to have any recourse against a builder without a level of intrusive monitoring our society simply isn't interested in instituting - nor do I think it's the lack of data that is the problem.

    1. Andy Kosick | | #23

      Malcolm, these are exactly the conversations we need to be having and I appreciate your engagement. (and Martin's article)

      I do understand the occupant argument, but I guess I am trying to be a little bit difficult, because I think we need to try something very different. This is a wicked problem. Housing stands apart from most products in that there isn't really an opportunity to "test drive" it. You also can't just return it to the store after 6 months if it sucks and it's probably the most expensive thing you'll ever buy.

      I was actually thinking the same monitoring vacant houses before occupancy thing myself. Right now code is trying to micro-manage a complex process to get results builders don't care about, and that's because their customers can't hold them to quality results on performance. I really think the answer has something to do with measuring a result homeowners understand and letting builders find the best way to get there.

      1. Charlie Sullivan | | #24

        I agree with the idea of monitoring an unoccupied house. Or, separately monitoring the HVAC consumption for a week with the house occupied, along with monitoring inside and outside temperatures. There would be ways to cheat on that--either providing supplemental heating with space heaters, if the residents wanted to help the builder make it look better than it was, or opening the windows if the residents wanted to make it look worse, but I don't think they'd have much incentive to do either.

        Occupied or not, one problem is that, with a heat pump, it's hard to project annual energy use from a one-week test. Really good data on heat pump performance combined with good software could, in theory do that. But for just testing the envelope, it might be better to simply heat with a a set of electric space heaters, all controlled and monitored so you know exactly how much heat was delivered and what interior temperature resulted. The downside of that approach is that it won't catch problems in ductwork or other issues with the HVAC setup.

        Ideally, if I was buying a house, I'd want to get a report with a blower test number, a duct leakage test (if there are ducts), a one-week thermal test with space heaters verifying the envelope performance, and a one-week test with the actual HVAC system running to verify its efficiency. Maybe 3 days is enough for each of those.

        In some ways, that could be more appealing to builders, because they would be free to take whatever approach they want, as long as it passed the test. But it could get expensive if they miss their target and have to rework something. Ideally that would lead to people overbuilding to be sure. I fear that it would instead lead to a thriving business of thermal test services that will report whatever performance level you tell them you want to achieve.

        1. GBA Editor
          Martin Holladay | | #25

          Charlie,
          "I fear that it would instead lead to a thriving business of thermal test services that will report whatever performance level you tell them you want to achieve."

          Twenty years ago I would have concluded that you are unjustifiably cynical. Now that I've reported on countless R-value scams, fudged Manual Js, and bogus performance path test reports, I conclude that you are justifiably concerned.

          1. Expert Member
            Malcolm Taylor | | #26

            Martin,

            I'm also not sure you can isolate the problem, as it's tied to other systemic weaknesses in how we build and sell houses.

            For instance right now Southern Vancouver island is in the midst of a real-estate boom. The well established practice of requiring a building inspection prior to finalizing a sale has disappeared. Listings solicit bidding-wars and multiple offers over the listing price. Offers with conditions attached have no chance of being accepted. All this occurs outside any of the regulatory control we have over buildings when they are under construction.

            While houses are seen primarily as commodities and part of an investment strategy, there are going to be multiple challenges to improving the quality of their performance, as it isn't viewed as a dominant concern for most people. That's why I think the best chance of success is improving codes and inspection while they are beiing built. It is the one point their lifespan where we already have some control over their quality.

          2. David Kaiser | | #29

            Malcom,

            See my idea/ response in comment #27 and #28. Let me know what you think.

          3. Expert Member
            Malcolm Taylor | | #30

            David,

            Perhaps this is a generational thing, but I don't see problems we have with the quality of buildings, or their energy use as being caused by a lack of data, or that it is necessary to set up an immensely complex system of data collection to fix them.

            I also curious as to why you think a society that is (for better or worse) based on the the free consumption of goods, would be amenable to penalizing excessive energy use in houses, while not limiting consumption in any other way? Why not a similar system that charges people more for excessive travel, or owning too many vehicles? There may be societies that could or would institute the type of oversight and regulation you are suggesting, but America seems like the last place that would happen.

          4. David Kaiser | | #35

            Malcom, while I understand there are difficulties in my plan, the current system only works to the tune of 50%. If we want to get the last 50% we either need to do a MUCH better job funding the existing energy code system or we need to try to find solutions outside the box.

            My idea wouldn't regulate energy use on wood shops, saunas, etc. Just the residential home and all its internal consumption.

  8. T. Barker | | #31

    The answer is to require all residential design to be done by professional licensed Engineers and Architects. Just like commercial and industrial. After the registered Engineer or Architect designs and stamps the drawings, then that's the end of it.

    The (city) inspectors simply go out to visually confirm that the construction is per the professionally sealed design. They report back yes or no, or ask the Engineer of Record if some variance or equivalent is OK.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #32

      T. Barker,
      That sounds simple in theory, but there are potential problems with your suggestion, including architect ignorance and inspector incompetence -- both of which already exist are are likely to persist.

      1. T. Barker | | #37

        Yes Martin, there are good doctors and not so good doctors, good engineers and not so good engineers. Notice I focused my comment on Engineers, not Architects. Architects tend to be good at making things look nice, well proportioned, and pleasing to the eye. They should stick to that. Engineers are the ones that are trained and specialize in structural, energy, HVAC, and gas and plumbing design and should be entrusted with this work.

        However, most Registered Engineers, currently ignore residential design, since they know the fees are too low. People won't pay when they can go to Harry the HVAC dude who passes his Manual J report off as something credible. And handy homeowner Hank with a ladder on his truck who says he knows more than the "dumb engineer" who said he needed to nail 6" in the field on 24's. And the "designer" at the local building supply who throws some numbers into his manufacturer's deck software and hands a set of prints to Mary for her new outdoor gazebo 12' off the ground with a stone fireplace and hot tub built in.

        If you needed heart surgery you wouldn't hand it off to the clerk at the front desk of the hospital, and you also wouldn't hand it off to your general physician either. The work is restricted to certified heart surgeons who become part of the medical profession and then specialize in that type of work. And because the work is restricted to those who pass some rigorous education and experience levels, the surgeon is well rewarded for their efforts.

        I believe if you restricted residential design to the two professions already trained in this field, things would change pretty quickly. The code is far more complex than it was 20 years ago. Everyone is complaining about the current cast of characters not doing their job very well. If you want to solve that problem, time for significant changes - even if it means the total cost of a house will go up more.

    2. David Kaiser | | #33

      I would also submit, being a former code official designee, that code officials more underfunded than incompetent (though the trade of code official does not always attract the best and brightest). If you've ever looked at the IRC and seen how many pages that is (about 2,000 in fine print) there are a lot of things to enforce. Due to lack of funding and time constraints, code officials pick the most consequential items that will keep people alive. Energy Code items dont usually make that list.

      I had to laugh when Mr. Barker said that the Arch./ Eng. Stamp is definitive on getting a compliant set of drawings. In my view the stamp only identifies liability, not competence. Only experience and diligence can make the stamps worth anything. And again coming back to money, most designers stretch it pretty thin on hours per project.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #34

        David,
        Thanks for you comments. I hope you realize that I wasn't implying that the majority of building officials were incompetent -- merely that building official incompetence exists and is part of the problem. You're right that most code officials are underfunded -- which is why I wrote, "building officials may be so overworked that adequate enforcement is impossible."

    3. Jed Weissbluth | | #36

      I've warmed to this opinion, too. We won't wait long for the critics to say "homes are already too costly today, and now we have to add licensed professional fees . . .". The obvious reply is that typical homes are costing the occupants (and society) quite a bit in dollars, personal health, comfort, longevity/service life, etc. One thing we have not done well is quantifying the various costs of low-standard residential construction compared to superior alternatives. The current system pits the builder's profits against an unwitting buyer, and talk of "housing affordability" dominates many discussions at the expense of actually talking about the quality of homes our industry is producing--and accounting for the true costs of building and occupying a home. Trade groups, legal recourse, and uneven government oversight are piecemeal answers at best. Advancing the general quality and reputation of the home building industry likely requires licensed engineers and architects.

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