The Union County Engineer's office will begin enforcing Ohio's new residential building code on Jan. 1.
The old code had been in use since 2006, according to Assistant County Engineer Mary Sampsel.
"As a statewide code, this is the only residential code that building departments in Ohio can use to regulate the construction and alterations of one-, two- and three-family family dwellings," she said.
A few of the more significant changes in the code include:
* Additional energy-saving features that require 50 percent of fixed lighting to be energy-efficient and additional insulation for the building envelope.
* A weather-resistant barrier such as a house wrap is now required under exterior siding.
* Carbon monoxide detectors are required outside the bedrooms of all houses with gas appliances or with an attached garage and shall be added to existing houses whenever a permit is needed for alterations and additions.
* Horizontal rebar us now required in addition to vertical bars for poured concrete foundation walls.
* Heated swimming pools require a thermal blanket to reduce energy loss.
Tim Wakely is a plan reviewer for the engineer's office. He said changes in the code may cost home owners up front but will save them money in the long haul.
"The residents of Union County voted 16 years ago to have a code enforcement agency and I think, during the recent recession, we've really seen that decision pay off," Wakely said.
"If you look at home sales during the rough economic times of the past five or six years, you'll see that Union County homes maintained or increased their value at a greater rate than in counties without enforcement agencies," he said.
Code enforcement also allows prospective home buyers to better investigate a potential purchase, he said.
"If you're going to purchase a home, you can come in to our office and look at our records and see everything that was done in building the house," Wakely said. "Houses that are built to code don't have as many complications as those that are not."
Parts of the code encourage energy efficiency and savings. Other parts are drawn up with an eye toward safety.
Basement and crawlspace floor joists, for instance, now need to have a protective covering such as plywood or drywall or a sprinkler system if the joists are less that 2-feet by 10-feet or if pre-engineered lumber is used such as I or truss joists.
"That's essentially for the protection of fire fighters if the house ever caught on fire," Wakely said. "It has to do with the burn time of the thicker joists.
"The change in the code is designed to afford an additional 20 minutes or so of protection, which is a lot of time when a house is on fire."