Code Consortium Aims High

Several area communities approve proposed codes.

“Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you might still hit the side of the barn. Shoot for the barn and miss, you may not hit a thing.”

The Central Iowa Code Consortium may have opted for that “shoot for the moon” approach as it put together its initial code recommendations. If the group did that, it was in the right solar system with the first shot.

Executive Committee member Jim Sanders explains, “Of the initial communities who participated, three have approved fire and building codes in some form, one has approved the fire code and is reviewing the building code, seven others are in some stage of review, and four are not yet to the review phase.”

The CICC, an outgrowth of the Capital Crossroads project, was established to help create an environment where central Iowa communities can grow. The Capital Crossroads members quickly realized that one significant factor hindering development was the inconsistent building and fire codes from one community to the next. To address this concern, the CICC was born.

Although the CICC had lofty goals of having the proposed codes reviewed and approved by peak construction season this year, the slow pace of government hindered that objective.

Sanders further explains, “All the individual municipalities involved in the Consortium follow their own code review processes. Some have a committee structure; others implement a sort of chain-of-command system, with various individuals approving or revising the proposed codes before a final citywide acceptance. And after each revision, the codes have to start back through that process again. Because every city has its own review process, it’s hard to predict when each will be completed.”

The Consortium recognized this issue at the outset (see BUILD Des Moines November 2016), but the reality was more of a factor than anticipated. “I think the greatest lesson we’ve learned is one that we had no control over,” Sanders says. “We’re working with 17 communities [plus Polk County] with 17 different governments and review policies, and each of them does its own level of review and has its own process.”

Of the communities still reviewing the proposed codes, Sanders anticipates most will complete that process in the next several months. Communities could approve the codes as written or make amendments to fit their individual development goals, and then they could approve the amended version of the codes.

“We are getting feedback from both the communities and our committee members,” says Sanders. “That input, along with evaluating how different municipalities have chosen to amend the proposed codes, will help each of our committees function more strategically during the next round.”

In addition, the CICC process itself went through some learning curves as members became familiar with each community’s review procedure. Sanders says, “Future recommendations will go more quickly as our committees gain confidence in the process and as more communities adopt the proposed codes.”

He also notes that even the slower initial progress is a leap forward from a year ago. “We see it as a big victory that more communities are already working with the latest codes available. Before this started, we had one city working on 10-year-old codes, another on 6-year-old codes. The review process was so time-consuming, communities just weren’t able to update efficiently. So we’ve already made progress.”

Sanders adds that everyone involved in the CICC committees has been encouraged by the number of communities already adopting and reviewing the codes. “Every committee member has already expressed a commitment to the next phase,” he says. “They’re determined to continue their efforts to get more communities on board because we all see this as a long-term project. The goal is that important.”

Central Iowa Code Consortium Members

  • Altoona
  • Ankeny
  • Bondurant
  • Carlisle
  • Clive
  • Des Moines
  • Grimes
  • Johnston
  • Norwalk
  • Osceola
  • Pleasant Hill
  • Polk City
  • Urbandale
  • Van Meter
  • Waukee
  • West Des Moines
  • Windsor Heights
  • Polk County

Codes Reviewed for 2016

  • Building
  • Existing Building
  • Fire
  • Electrical
  • Energy Conservation
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • Fuel Gas
  • Residential
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas