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Maine Legislative Changes: What You NEED to Know (especially if you’re in the building industry…)

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Article contributed by Christy Crocker, MIAQC Executive Director. (Maine state capitol building image courtesy of thousandwonders.net)

As the regular session of the 129th Maine Legislature wraps up, the Public Policy Committee of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council is taking the opportunity to sit back, relax, and consider the outcomes from our efforts to promote healthy indoor environments through advocacy.  Overall, we are very pleased with the results.  So what’s new?  

Building Code Changes!  There are significant building code changes that impact everyone designing, constructing, and renovating buildings in Maine.  A brief summary of what you need to know:

1) LD 1509 – An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code To Ensure It Is Consistent with Current Standards and Applies to Small Municipalities (passed and signed by the Governor).

For those in the building trades and peripheral professions, this legislation has far-reaching impact:

  • The bill makes both the Maine Uniform Building Code and the Maine Uniform Energy Code mandatory state-wide.  All newly constructed or significantly renovated buildings will now have to comply with the code.
  • Instead of allowing towns under 4,000 to opt out of the code completely, the bill only allows towns under 4,000 to opt out of enforcing the code, thus leaving the code in place within all Maine municipalities regardless of whether or not it is enforced.
  • The bill requires that the state be no more than one code version out of compliance with available codes and standards.  On a practice level, this will put, at a minimum, the 2015 versions of both the ICC building codes (already in place) AND the 2015 version of the IECC Energy Code (currently at 2009 version).  The switch to the 2015 or later version of the IECC makes fairly significant changes to the construction and performance of the building envelope. We recommend all builders and others seek information, training and guidance on the new provisions.
  • The bill adds the International Mechanical Code to the list of codes and standards that make up the Building and Energy Codes.
  • The bill makes application of the ASHRAE Ventilation Standards and the ASTM Radon Standard mandatory elements of the Building and Energy Codes.  For the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council, this was our biggest legislative victory that we feel advances our mission to create healthy, productive, and environmentally sustainable indoor environments in Maine.  

2) LD 1543 – An Act to Amend the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (passed and signed by the Governor).  This legislation directs the Technical Codes Board (the body of professionals that oversees the state code) to develop an energy code option that offers deeper energy efficiencies than those contained in the regular energy code (the IECC).  The “stretch energy code” would be an option that municipalities could choose to adopt if they wish to.

3) LD 855 – An Act to Strengthen the MUBEC.  As of this writing, the bill has passed both the house and senate, but has not yet been signed by the Governor.  This bill places the administration of the Building and Energy Codes back at the Department of Public Safety, and adds additional staff to aid in administration of the code, and in the training of code professionals and others in code provisions and compliance.  The costs to pay for the staff positions is achieved through a $5 surcharge on building permits for new construction and significant renovations.

Other Changes of Interest:

LD 1079 – An Act to Authorize Schools to Periodically Test for Radon (passed and signed by the Governor). Among other things, this bill as originally drafted would have required all Maine schools to test for radon in air every 5 years.  Although disappointed that the mandatory testing provision was eliminated from the final bill language due to cost, we successfully advocated for other bill amendments that survived in the final legislation:

  • In lieu of requiring use of an outdated EPA testing protocol, we successfully argued that testing protocols should be whichever protocols the Maine State Radon Section current adopts/recommends:  a much more flexible position legislatively.
  • Although the Maine State Department of Education currently requires that new schools be constructed with radon preventive features, the bill as amended solidifies this practice in law.  And, similar to the testing protocols, the final legislation directs the standards/practices for building radon out of new school buildings to be set by the state radon experts within Maine CDC.