Dreaming Big

Central Iowa Code Consortium has set lofty goals for 2016.

The Capital Crossroads project began a few years ago with a goal “to assure the central Iowa region can grow and prosper.” The eight organizations that formed that initial partnership simply wanted to find ways for the participating communities to work together and help the greater Des Moines area thrive.

Sometimes, these ideas are good in concept, then fail in execution. But as Henry David Thoreau said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost—now put foundations under them.”

And that’s where the Central Iowa Code Consortium comes in.

“One of the focus areas for the Crossroads pilot program was the fire code and related code adoption processes,” Jim Sanders, Johnston City Administrator, explains. “The Governance Capital committee of Capital Crossroads consisted of volunteers representing fire service and city administration, and their directive was to review the fire codes from many metro communities and identify the similarities and differences.”

Sanders says that as the team evaluated those codes, it became evident that in order to achieve their ultimate goal, the committee also needed to review the construction and maintenance codes. “The purpose of the committee was to encourage local governments to sustainably manage growth without sacrificing essential public services,” he says. Having consistent codes from one community to the next would make that goal more achievable, but it would require more than just consistent fire codes.

So late in 2014 the Unified Code Team regrouped and expanded, inviting metro area building officials into the discussion. The end result was the Central Iowa Code Consortium.

In the year or so since the Consortium began formal meetings, the group has accomplished a great deal. And the foundation is set for a busy 2016.

Laying the Groundwork

The first task for the Central Iowa Code Consortium (CICC) Steering Committee was to produce a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and present it to metro area city councils.

Sanders says, “Once we had a number of cities on board, we formed an Executive Committee made up of six building and code officials, three fire officials, and two government representatives.”

Unlike nearly any other code review committee or community growth panel, the CICC brings government and professional representatives together to develop unified goals. To do this, the Executive Committee partners closely with the Capital Crossroads Office of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, which maintains the CICC website and distributes CICC agendas and information.

Creating a Blueprint

Once the Executive Committee was formed, the real planning began.

Executive Committee members solicited volunteers from government and industry to serve on several committees. Each of the seven committees consists of seven members and represents various communities across the metro (see lists of communities and committees). “All of our committees are considered public bodies, so they follow the open meetings and open records requirements,” Sanders says.

Between May and July of last year, the blueprint for CICC committees and goals was laid out. “We created a form and process for communities and individuals to propose changes to the various codes, and we received over 450 proposals,” Sanders says. The committees are in the process of reviewing those proposals and existing codes so they can recommend changes to the Executive Committee.

Looking Ahead

“We have a deadline of March 1, 2016, for the code committees to complete their review and have their recommendations to the Executive Committee,” says Sanders. At that point, the Executive Committee will draft a code for final public comment and review before recommending the completed code to participating communities early this summer.

For those serving on the various committees, this is just the beginning.

Jonathan Lund, Executive Committee Chairman and Des Moines Fire Marshal, has been involved with Capital Crossroads since the initial effort to review the fire codes. “We quickly realized that addressing the fire code alone wasn’t tackling all the issues that concerned metro communities and industry professionals,” he says.

Chuck Gassmann of Bell Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning adds, “As a contractor, Bell Brothers has struggled working in the metropolitan area with 17 different communities, each with different building codes and interpretations.”

According to Sanders, “Two things motivated me to participate in the effort. One, I like the approach—business/industry and government working together to review and discuss codes. It is more productive to discuss the issues up front rather than in the field or at a city council meeting. Two, I think the more consistency we have among metro area codes, the better it is for the development community, citizens, government, and the local economy.”

Gassmann (a member of the Plumbing, Mechanical, and Fuel Gas Code Committee) says that participating with CICC has given him a better understanding of what’s involved in the code adoption and enforcement process. “I think the government representatives have a much better understanding of how contractors use, interpret, and implement the codes, too.”

Sanders agrees. “I have learned a lot from listening to code enforcement staff and industry representatives as they discuss various issues. I think it is good to look at issues from all sides and have a better understanding of what the concerns or issues are from each perspective.”

As Executive Committee Chairman, Lund leads the 11-member oversight team and serves as liaison between the CICC and Capital Crossroads. Helping to facilitate the entire process keeps the project moving forward, he says. “This year our goal is to finalize the amendments for each of the codes we’re reviewing and hopefully have all participating communities adopt them.”

Gassmann says, “My hope and dream is that by the end of 2016, we have 17 communities who have adopted the same codes and amendments and are consistently enforcing the codes in all those communities.

“I hope that the results of our efforts will be noticed by others that may not currently be participating. I also hope our success inspires metro cooperation in other areas,” Sanders says.
That may sound like a lofty dream, but the CICC has the groundwork laid and a team of committee members determined to make that dream come true.

And, according to Henry David Thoreau, that’s how great things begin.

CICC Participating Communities

  • 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

CICC Code Committees

  • Electrical/Energy
  • Fire
  • International Building Code (IBC)/International Existing Building Code (IEBC)
  • International Residential Code (IRC)
  • Mechanical/Plumbing/Fuel Gas
  • Pool/Spa/Property Maintenance (residential)*
  • Fire/Building Joint Committee

*The Pool/Spa/Property Maintenance Committee, which did not receive sufficient applications for membership in 2015, is currently on hold until additional members are recruited.