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Georgia Moves to Limit Local Authority to Implement Stronger Building Codes

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Earlier this week, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 876, statewide legislation that would prevent Georgia cities and towns from enacting local measures to strengthen their building codes for fire and safety reasons. The State Senate will now consider the measure. The decision to do so flies in the face of the efforts of Sandy Springs and Tucker, two Georgia municipalities which, after a string of fires in buildings constructed with combustible materials nationwide, sought to protect their communities from experiencing similar horrors.

In August 2016, the Sandy Springs (GA) City Council passed an ordinance to amend the city’s building codes to include new requirements that prohibit combustible materials from being used in certain building elements with the aim of providing increased building quality, sustainability, durability and longevity. Likewise, Tucker, GA, has taken proactive steps to preemptively ban the use of combustible materials, such as wood, in certain types of construction.

Throughout the country, wood-frame, multi-family residential structures have been the site of intense fires, fueled by the combustible materials in the buildings in question – most notably in Princeton, NJ; East Boston, MA; Lakewood, NJ; Weymouth, MA; Haverhill, MA; Waltham, MA; Charlotte, NC; Warner Robins, GA; Midvale, UT; Oakland, CA; Dorchester, MA; Lawrence, MA; East Hollywood, CA; Lowell, MA; Waterbury, CT; Emeryville, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Arlington, VA; College Park, MD; Overland Park, KS; Raleigh, NC; and Maplewood, NJ. There have been dozens over the last few years.

“We should not be taking the risk of constructing our larger buildings from combustible materials,” said Stephen Skalko, a Georgia-based consulting engineer on life safety, fire safety and construction aspects of buildings in an opinion article published by The Macon Telegraph. “With the future in mind, we owe it to our children, and to their children, to provide them with durable, sustainable and reasonably safe structures.”

Simply put, wood-frame buildings, built by convenience and affordability, risk the lives they were meant to serve. They are an inherent danger to the community, and threaten the well-being of not only tenants and visitors, but the fire service professionals whose job it is to combat these fires. Through the Build with Strength initiative, NRMCA has resources to help members and state affiliates advocate for resilient and safer construction, including model legislation, talking points, public relations and other key strategies.

To learn more about how NRMCA can assist in state advocacy, please contact NRMCA Vice President of State and Local Government Affairs, John Loyer, at 703-675-7603 or


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