Box 5, Folder 5, Document 76

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Box 5, Folder 5, Document 76

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In 1922 the Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover reported to Congress
that conflicting and antiquated building codes were substantially increasing
building costs in the United States, Forty-seven years later this problem
has yet to be solved. In this nation, where efficient productive investment
is the key to economic growth, we see outdated laws robbing us ae their effi-
ciency. No industry feels this more than building construction, our largest
activity requiring private investment funds. And no area is more hurt by
this than a rapidly growing, rapidly urbanizing area such as Atlanta.

Archaic building codes can rob each homeowner of hundreds of dollars
that could otherwise be used for productive investment. When this is added
to the thousands wasted on public buildings, financed by the taxpayers, it
is -seen that millions of investment dollars are drained away from the building
market through restrictive building practices. ‘This means that fewer families
are able to move into new homes and business are discouraged from making
building investments. It is seen then that obsolete building codes can form
a drag on the economic development of a community. Conversely, an up~to-date
building code cannot only make more homes more available to more people, but
it can also act as a stimulus to a community's economic development,

The harm done by an outdated building code is most easily seen in Low
cost, low income family housing. The several hundred dollars additional
‘cost to build a home in a poorly coded jurisdiction means, to many families,
the difference between a new house and remaining in a rat infested slum. The
numerous urban renewal projects within Atlanta where public funds are spent to
make adequate building codes even more important. .

Our city has five different codes: Building, Plumbing, Electrical,
Housing,and Heating and Ventilating which will be discussed on detail.

_ The building division has patterned its code after the National Building
Code, This code is written and recommended primarily by the National Board of
Fire Underwriters and its basic concern is safty. Very little attention is
paid to innovative materials or advances in technology.


The Electrical division uses the National Electrical Code with a small
book of revisions to apply specifically to Atlanta. There is an Electrical
Advisory Board composed of local union and non-union electricians who influence
changes and interpretations of the code. There is also an Electrical Examining

Board which administers the examination to become a licensed Atlanta electrician.

Through this examination the board controls the number of electricians

and the level of shill required for that license.


The Official Plumbing Code is written by local Atianta plumbers. The
Plumbing division also has a Plumbing Advisory Board and Examination Board

whose functions parallel those of the electrical division.


‘.* The Heating and Ventilating Code is locally written by an advisory Board

consisting of members of the heating and ventilating industry of Atlanta.


The Atlanta Housing Code sets down minimum housing standards for existing
building and is not primarily concerned with any new construction. >

All of the aforementioned are strictly Atlanta codes. They are approved -
by the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor and have the force of city ordinances.
They apply only to building within the city limits.


Just outside of the city limits there is a multiplicity of codes. The
Fulton County Code for example, applies to all areas in Fulton County which
are not also in an incorporated city such as Atlanta or Roswell. In DeKalb
County on the other hand, their code applies to all unincorporated areas and
to several incorporated cities who have chosen to use the county code. There
are even several cities who use the county codes for building and heating,
for example, and their own city codes for plumbing and electricity.

This presents a very serious problem. Many builders serve the entire
five county metropolitan area and are thus faced with many different codes.
To solve the problem of applying different specifications for each building
erected they have devised a composite area code. This code contains the
strictest provision on each point in the various area codes. In this way .
any house will meet the requirements of any code in any area. As is easily
seen, this involves a great deal of wasted time and money, and a better
house,is not necessarily the result.


Unfortunately, Atlanta's only code problems are not as a result of other

local codes. In spite of recent revision, there can be found numerous faults

in any of Atlanta's codes. By a fault, I mean a stipulation which adds cost
to a house without any improvement. These problems will be discussed with

respect to the individual codes to which they apply.

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Considering the present technology in the trade, the Atlanta Plumbing

Code appears to be overly restrictive in only two basic areas, The first
concerns plastic drain, waste and vent pipe. The use of this pipe is cur-
rently under consideration by the plumbing advisory board and will hopefully
be permitted in the near future. The second area concerns prefabricated
plumbing trees. Though the code never specifically prohibits these trees,
it does require that all plumbing to be done by authorized Atlanta Plumbers.
Since most of the prefabricated trees are manufactured outside of the city,
it is virtually impossible for them to comply with this provision. Another
restrictive rule requires that all plumbing be left exposed for inspection
on the site. This means that a prefabricated wall, which‘can greatly reduce
costs, cannot be used because the plumbing would be inclosed within it. The
problems lie in these areas then:

a) Plastic drain, waste, and vent pipe is not considered.

b) Not allowing even rough assemblq outside of the city.

c) No special provisions for inspection of prefabricated walls.



Far fewer objections are voiced on the Electrical Code than either the

building or the plumbing codes. The objections that are encoutered concern
the necessity of putting washing machines and dryers on separate circuits,
and by ‘the same token, diswashers and garbage disposers must also be separated.
The only other objection concerned the prohibition of underground feeder and
branch circuits. The objections on the Electrical Code were then:

a) Inability to put washing machines and dryers on the,

same circuit. ,

b) Inability to put dishwashers and garbage disposers
on the same circuit.

c) Illegality of underground feeder and branch circuits.


At this time the Atlanta Building Code exists in two forms, the 1961
edition and its several ammendments and the totally revised edition which
will go into effect on January 1, 1970. This revised edition contains many

provisions that the local builders have requested and is consequently quite


up to date. There are however, .two glaring items that seemed to have been
overlooked. The first concerns the spacing of trusses. Prefabricated roof
trusses have become a great cost reducing factor in house construction, and
the generally accepted spacing is twenty-four inches. The Atlanta code,
apparently failing to recognize the wide spread use of these trusses, refers
to them by their individual components, that is, rafters and joists. The
code cites examples where rafters may be placed twenty-four inches apart but
the greatest spacing for a joint is sixteen inches. Thus requiring prefab-
ricated trusses to be spaced at sixteen inches. The other problem concerns
roof sheathing. The nationally accepted thickness for roof sheathing is 3/8
inch, whereas the Atlanta Code specifies 5/8 inch. It is in these two areas,
then, that the problem lie:

a) Sixteen instead of twenty-four inch spacing for pre-

fabricated roof trusses.

b) 5/8 inch instead of 3/8 inch roof shoathing.

Another very important problem which exists in all of Atlanta's codes
is requiring all of the labor to be performed by craftsmen licensed in
Atlanta. This greatly limits the amount of prefabrication done in factories

outside of Atlanta even zthough prefabrication can substantially lower the

‘cost of a house. For example, bathroom assemblies can be mass produced, not

unlike an automobile, on an assembly line. These units, including lavatories,
water closets, showers, tubs and electrical connections are then transported

to the building site by truck. When the unit is installed in the house it is
virtually impossible to tell that it was not built in the conventional manner,

yet the cost is substantially lower. Atlanta's codes do not permit this tech-

-nique. Since the plumbing and electrical work was not done within the city

that if the unit were built according to a national standard that it should

limits and by licensed Atlanta craftsmen,the unit is prohibited. It seems

be allowed. By inspection at the factory it could be determina] that the unit
would be every bit as safe and durable as a bathroom assembled on the site.
Safety and durability are intended to be the major considerations of a building


This example illustrates a general tendency in the Atlanta codes to
discriminate against innovation, Prefabrication and plastic pipe are two
money saving innovative techniques which have proven themselves safe and
durable in other jurisdictions, yet, they are both prohibited. Eventually,
they will both undoubtedly be accepted but in the mean time a great deal of
money is spent dnnecessarily. Safeguards must be maintained to protect the

home buyer from any faulty or dangerous innovations but there is a need for

- a provision in our codes to allow for the testing of new ideas by an impar-

tial Test and Evaluation Board. These tests would check both the performance

and durability of the product. If the tests were successfully passed the
object or technique would be approved and it could be put into use without
the long legislative battle involved in altering a code. “
The improvement of Atlanta's Code is a difficult but necessary task.
It will require vigorous joint action from chambers of commerce, civic and
service groups, and trade and professional associations. ‘There is na veason
for a progressive city like Atlanta to allow antiquated building codes to
retard its urban construction. Admittedly there are many problems associated

with any urban renewal project but the slums are-a scar on Atlanta's face

‘and new building are the stiches needed to close that scar. A Progressive

set of building codes is the needle with which these stiches must be made.


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