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Why do I Need a Permit before I Build?

Post Date:02/25/2017 10:31 PM

Building codes are one of the earliest forms of recorded policies of civilized societies. The first known building code was established in 1772 BC and is referred to as the building code of King Hammurabi.
The code was carved upon a black stone monument eight feet high and clearly intended to be in public view. This noted stone was found in 1901 in a city in the Persian mountains.

The building code provisions were simplistic by current building standards; however, there were severe penalties, including death, for failure to build safe structures. The severity of these penalties correlated
with consequence of the building failure, ranging from injuries to death of building occupants.

The purpose of building codes has not changed significantly from this early building code. Most aspects of building construction— structural stability, electrical power distribution systems, sanitary plumbing systems, heating and cooling systems— represent potential hazards to the building occupants and users. While building codes cannot completely eliminate the risk, compliance with building permit requirements and construction regulations result in reducing risk to an acceptable level.

Some of the more obvious safety items required by the code are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Other code required construction items are concealed in the completed building and are not noticed by
the casual observer.

Building codes are intended to protect the public health, safety and welfare. This begins with the location of the building on the lot. The closer a building is constructed to the property line, the greater the hazard
to adjacent buildings in the event of a fire. The heat and embers from the building constructed close to the property line will expose the adjacent buildings to an increased risk of fire.

Some risks to buildings are easy to understand such as the weight of snow on the roof, wind forces applied to the walls and roof and seismic loads imparted upon the structure due to ground movement.

The most easily overlooked hazard is flooding. A visual assessment of a piece of land may not accurately reveal the hazard of inundation by flood waters. Before floodplain mapping was initiated by what is now known as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), many structures were constructed in flood hazard areas without the knowledge of the owner or contractor. Today, floodplain mapping has been increased in accuracy by the development of digital flood insurance rate maps (DFIRMS). This leap in accuracy has provided local Floodplain Managers with accurate high resolution mapping tools that
can be accurately scaled and overlaid on the city's GIS imaging to provide highly detailed images.

Another thing to keep in mind is if a house is constructed close to the regulated flood plain and not located in the floodplain, flood insurance is not required. However, if an attached deck is added to the house and only one support post for the deck is located in the flood plain, the entire house is now located in the flood plain. This will result in mandatory flood insurance being required.

The City is providing this information not to scare or intimidate building owners and/or contractors, but to make sure everyone is aware of changing federal flood insurance requirements. In doing so, we hope to save property owners money and frustration in the future.

Please contact the city if you have any questions regarding flood hazard information, flood insurance rating data, or natural floodplain functions that should be protected or general floodplain requirements. Property protection assistance and/or property advice is available after a site visit. All elevation certificates on file with the city are available for review upon request. Please contact Deputy Building
Commissioner Joe Moore at jmoore@marylandheights.com or (314) 738-2243.

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