Unified Codes a Distinct Possibility

Central Iowa Code Consortium begins code recommendation process this month.

This month marks the beginning of what could be a dramatic shift in building-related code adoption in central Iowa. Organizers hope the Central Iowa Code Consortium will make business easier for building professionals and boost economic growth throughout the area.

Jim Sanders, Johnston city manager, a member of the Executive Committee, says, “The goal is to have fairly consistent codes from one community to the next. So a builder or developer knows he can build the same way whether the home is in Johnston or Ankeny, for example. This will not only encourage building and development; we hope it will be good for the economy, too.”

A result of Capital Crossroads discussions, the Consortium currently consists of 16 communities and Polk county who have all adopted the Consortium’s Memorandum of Understanding (see sidebar “What Is Capital Crossroads?” below).

“Around 2012 the Capital Crossroads organization was formed to talk about ways to make central Iowa stronger,” he says. “One of the topics of discussion was how to make government more efficient.”

The group initially started discussing ways to unify fire codes from community to community to help emergency personnel, builders, and inspectors. That conversation expanded to building codes, plumbing codes, and maintenance codes. And it became evident that a more consistent code system would be beneficial to everyone, from builders and contractors to homeowners themselves.

The first step in the process was to create an Executive Committee. That group, made up of six code/building officials, three fire officials, and two local government representatives, will be responsible for collecting subcommittee input and writing the full code recommendations to present to all of the participating communities.

Although the purpose, as the Memorandum of Understanding states, is “to have a process whereby government and industry can work together to review, discuss, and recommend code provisions for consideration by the participating communities,” Sanders emphasizes that the recommendations will be just that—recommendations.

He explains, “Each community is still free to adopt any of the codes the Consortium recommends or not. Or they can adopt them with amendments, just as they do now. But our hope is that by working together with representatives from government and industry, we can come up with recommendations that meet both expectations rather than being forced to adapt after the fact.”

Sanders and the other members of the Executive Committee began meeting early this year to spell out the Consortium’s structure and long-term goals. Since then, the seven committees, each made up of seven members, have been outlined and nearly every position filled. Committee members will each serve a three-year term, which coincides with the average code cycle.

“Most building-related codes are revised every three years,” Sanders says, “so it made sense to have each committee serve for a full code cycle. Members will always have the option to reapply to serve another term.”

At this point, as committee meetings are getting under way, the Consortium’s goal is to have recommendations written and and then presented to the Executive Committee by the end of the year so those can be reviewed and consolidated for recommendation to participating communities early in 2016.

“The 2015 codes were just published in the spring, so the committees have a lot to talk about,” Sanders says.

Once the code recommendations are presented, committees will continue to meet, though on a less frequent basis.

“We assume there will be a need for reviewing the code recommendations, for reviewing how codes are being implemented and interpreted,” Sanders explains. “So the committees will continue to meet through the remainder of their three-year terms.”

This government and industry alliance is a new effort in Iowa and one of very few across the country. Sanders says the Central Iowa Code Consortium’s structure and timeline was modeled after a similar organization in Nevada.

“The Nevada group of communities after which we patterned ours is similar in a lot of ways—it includes more rural or suburban communities as well as major cities, including Las Vegas,” he says. “That group has been in existence through five code cycles so far, more than 15 years, and they’ve been able to develop some real consistency in codes across their communities and streamlined the review and recommendation process.”

The Central Iowa Code Consortium hopes to achieve that same level of success.


The Communities and county currently represented in the Central Iowa Code Consortium:

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

A representative from each of the above communities as well as the county has signed the Consortium’s Memorandum of Understanding (or MOU), which specifies the guidelines and expectations for Consortium participation and activities.

To read the full Memorandum of Understanding, click here

The seven committees

The Central Iowa Code Consortium consists of these seven committees:

  • Electrical/energy
  • Fire
  • International Building Code
  • International Residential Code
  • Mechanical/Plumbing/Fuel Gas
  • Pool/Spa/Property Maintenance (residential)
  • Joint Fire/Building

Each code committee is made up of seven members (four from various government agencies and three from appropriately related industries).

All of the committee meetings are open to the public. Feedback from industry professionals and consumers is welcome. To find out about scheduled meetings or to read results of past meetings, visit the website at CapitalCrossroadsVision.com/Central-Iowa-Code-Consortium.

What Is Capital Crossroads?

“Capital Crossroads builds on the region’s strengths and provides a road map to capitalize on opportunities. The focus is on ideas and energy to ensure our region grows and prospers for current and future generations.

“Eight organizations joined together to sponsor the planning process. Fifty members of the Capital Crossroads Steering Committee invited public input on ways to improve the Central Iowa region, covering a 50-mile radius from the State Capitol.

“More than 5,000 local voices contributed to the process via one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and online surveys. Research was conducted to assess the area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges.

“The Steering Committee then evaluated and prioritized ideas and developed ten areas of focus. Ten Capital plans were developed to elevate our region. Each of the ten plans impacts growth in its area of focus and on an integrated basis.” (from the Capital Crossroads website) The Capital Crossroads vision states, “In the trails and wellness capital of the world, you’ll find big-city opportunity in a place where you can breathe.

“Where a thriving and robust economy equals greater prosperity and vibrant, safe, diverse neighborhoods. Where talented, hard-working people collaborate to build successful businesses, including a renowned bio-science corridor, and a rich and accessible cultural community. Where we honor our heritage of education and stewardship of natural resources in a clean and sustainable environment.”

For more information on the Capital Crossroads activities or to get involved, visit CapitalCrossroadsVision.com.