|Action||Update the Uniform Statewide Building Code|
|Comment Period||Ends 5/26/2017|
BFAC's Comments on 2015 Building Code Changes
Fairfax County’s Building For All Committee (BFAC) is a public-private coalition whose mission is to advocate for homes to be comfortable, safe, convenient and that they enhance the independence of people of all ages, sizes and abilities. We seek to accomplish this by: Promoting the merits of universal design features in housing; educating consumers about the benefits of universal design; leading advocacy efforts to affect public policy in support of universal design; and by increasing the building industry's knowledge of universal design.
BFAC is exceedingly grateful to the Department of Housing and Community Development for maintaining the requisite for 34 inch doorways in newly constructed single family homes as part of the revisions to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Statewide Uniform Building Code. We also support the need to clarify the language in the Commonwealth’s Building Code as to when specifically this condition should be applied. BFAC’s support for adequate space for maneuverability is in no way intended to impose an undue burden on builders, and is solely intended to make newly constructed homes in Virginia environments where people of all ages and abilities can thrive.
While reviewing the updated language which we strongly support, two areas of potential concern were identified that we would encourage you to clarify before the revised building code is finalized.
- Exemption for additions to existing homes—BFAC agrees that the intent and purpose of this obligation is primarily targeting newly constructed homes. However, there are instances where additions to existing homes are greater than the original home foundation. In cases where the addition to a previously existing home match or even exceed the size and scope of the original home, we believe that there could be additional language incorporated into the proposed language where the 34-inch obligation could apply to additions in such instances.
- Exemption for reconstruction of existing homes—It is our understanding that a complete “reconstruction” of an existing home essentially means that the home is torn down to the foundation and reconstructed to the extent that it could essentially be considered a newly constructed home. Again, we believe this could be clarified further to ensure that 34-inch doorways are utilized to the greatest extent possible.
BFAC supports the concept of this newly implemented prerequisite for 34 inch doorways to apply to newly constructed single family homes. We applaud VHDA’s efforts and understand the need to clarify the language in the revised version of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Statewide Uniform Building Code. Our only concern is that these two exceptions for “additions” and “reconstruction” could be used as potential loopholes for builders to avoid complying with the 34-inch doorway obligation, and hope that you’ll take our comments into consideration as you finalize the language in the revised statewide uniform building code.
Most importantly, we would like to thank you for such a fantastic initiative for people of all ages and abilities. A recent study found that only one to three percent of the nation’s housing stock includes Universal Design features like wider doorways that are so desperately needed. BFAC is convinced that successfully implementing this exciting new opportunity will not only send a message to the rest of the country that Virginia is a state welcoming for everyone, but also gives us a strategic advantage to be ahead of the growing demand for Universal Design features in newly constructed single family homes.
Members of Fairfax County’s Building For All Committee