Flexible codes sought for older buildings

More flexible building codes are needed to make the renovation of old buildings profitable, according to Chris Williams, vice president for economic development and government relations with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

In Manchester, he said, “for a lot of the buildings up and down Elm Street and in the Millyard, the building code is fine for the bottom floor, but the developers are finding it very cost prohibitive to renovate the upper floors for other uses.” The international building code, adopted by New Hampshire and most other states, “was designed for construction of new buildings, not the renovation of old buildings,” he said.

What the builders would like is more options, Williams said, and an ability to work around the limitations of buildings constructed before building regulations were standardized.

“If, for example, an elevator shaft has to be 10-by-10 and you have a building where it’s only 8-by-10, maybe you could compensate for that by putting in an extra fire escape,” he said. Williams said New Jersey is one state that has altered the building code to make it more flexible for renovations.

A roundtable discussion of the issue will be held from 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, at the America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester. Municipal officials from several New Hampshire communities, developers, state legislators and members of the New Hampshire Building Code Review Board will participate, Williams said.

For more information, call Meredith Nickerson at 666-6600.

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