A Conversation with Mark Reetz

Reetz is new chair for state building code group.

Mark Reetz was elected chairman of the State Building Code Advisory Council in September, following more than a decade as a member of the group.

“It’s an honor because you’re elected by your peers,” says Reetz. “I would like to steer us on the continued new direction that ensures both sides are heard in a fair and balanced way.”

The council, which meets monthly, sets the guidelines and parameters of the building codes it thinks the State of Iowa should adopt. The seven-member body is appointed by the governor.

“I think the council we have right now has a great mix of people who come from all walks of the industry,” Reetz says. “You need to have that because the council is only as good as the people who can bring suggestions and opinions to the group.”

Becoming chairman has been a little bit of an adjustment for Reetz, a builder who over the years has made clear his pro-growth stance. As an owner of Homes by Fleetwood, he has been involved in the homebuilding industry for 25 years.

Reetz says he’s prepared for his role as more of a moderator.

“From my years on the council, I can see both sides of an argument,” Reetz says. “If I’m for something, I have a good reason for it. It’s the same thing if I’m against something.”

What is currently on the top of the council’s agenda?

Right now, we are addressing the proposed acceptance of the 2015 Energy Code, which includes some good points, along with those that are more challenging. The energy code is a really hot topic here. If we were to accept the 2015 code as it is currently written, there is a possibility that this would increase the cost of a house substantially.

There’s going to be strong arguments on both sides. Some feel we need to be more energy efficient, showing that we’re a progressive state and leader in renewable energy. Others feel we’ve gone far enough and are at a tipping point. The payback of a few dollars and increased energy efficiency for installing some of these costly energy-saving measures is not affordable to a potential homebuyer.

We’ve been working on this for just a few months, but it’s going to take many more months until the work is complete. Once it goes through our council, it goes through the normal rule-making process, which can be found online. What we work on today may not be in effect as a bona fide code for another year. This can’t drag on for too long, though, because if we do, we’ll be in the next energy code cycle, which is in 2018.

The energy code is just one of many different codes, and people have certain ideas about what should be in them. When individuals come to the council and want to change the code, we hold their feet to the fire and make them explain in a concise and precise way why they want this, why this is better, and how it will benefit the state. We do our research and ask hard questions.

As chairman, I’m going to listen to everyone’s opinions and make sure we’re clear and concise on why they’re trying to promote their side.

What have been the most significant industry changes you’ve seen?

One is that everything is becoming more energy efficient. Also, the type of building materials have changed, from using old-growth wood to products that now contain more glues, such as I-joists, LVL beams, and OSB plywood.

Glue is a fire accelerant. So with more products like these in homes, they contribute to houses burning quicker when they catch fire. In response, there have been new fire code tests that assess things like how long a floor system is able to burn until it fails.

Another hot issue is the environment. Building a house today is a lot different than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Today, erosion control, topsoil quality, and debris run-off into storm sewer intakes are just a few things you need to take into consideration. A typical house probably requires upwards of 20 to 25 separate inspections. A commercial job would be four times that, if not more.

Every time you add something to the process, it increases the price of the home. That’s the fine line: Making a house that’s affordable and also going to satisfy the concerns of all these other entities that are involved. We always want to build safe homes, but we also want to do it at a price homeowners can afford.

Are you involved with any charity work or organizations?

In the past, I’ve been on the Consumer Board of Directors for US Airways and on the board of directors for the City of West Des Moines’ Health and Human Services.

Homes by Fleetwood recently gave the Animal Rescue League of Iowa a check for just over $5,000, which were the net proceeds from a house Homes by Fleetwood built. I came up with the idea when I went back to school years ago for my master’s in business, and made it my capstone project. Now, the project has become a reality.

The ARL is such a well-run organization. Tom Colvin (the ARL’s executive director) is as good as they come and he’s the right guy for the job. He’s a joy to work with. We were really happy to make such a large donation to help the animals.

What do you like to do in your free time away from work?

I’m active in my church, like to hunt, and am the commissioner of a golf league and a fantasy football league. I’m a bad bowler and bad golfer, but I enjoy it anyway. It’s all about camaraderie.