Phil Bartlett, Maine State Senate District Six  

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Maine Legislature Passes Uniform Building and Energy Code

April 18, 2008

The Maine State Legislature Friday enacted the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which represents a huge step forward not only for consumers but for the building and development community in Maine.

For decades the patchwork of local codes differing from town to town have presented a complex and confusing process for builders and others. As a result of this legislation Maine will join 40 other states that have adopted uniform building and energy codes. It also creates a technical code board whose job it is to harmonize the entire array of codes including building and energy codes. To help municipalities comply with the uniform rules, all code enforcement personnel at the local level will be provided free training by the State.

LD 2257 has been carefully crafted to make code implementation work for small towns that may not as yet have adopted one. The 367 municipalities with less than 2,000 residents are exempted from any enforcement activity. Larger communities who may not have a code enforcement official may join with other communities, contract out the inspections or allow third party licensed inspections to be obtained by the builders or owners.

Senator Lynn Bromley , D-Cumberland County , who has worked on developing uniform building codes her entire career in the legislature pointed out that the new building codes will be applied to new construction and significant renovation projects. “Existing structures are not affected.” She added that Maine has some of the oldest housing stock in the country and that the law would provide special flexibility for rehabilitating historic homes and downtown districts to preserve their historic character. “Adopting a uniform rehab code allows us to relax some of the standards that for the first time to make it possible to preserve some of our beautiful old buildings.”

Senator Bromley concluded, “This legislation will improve Maine 's business climate, help rehab our downtowns and historic buildings, and provide Maine people with the assurance that their homes and businesses are well built and energy efficient.”

Senator Phil Bartlett, D-Cumberland County who submitted an energy efficient building code that was ultimately included with the uniform building code said, “Although Maine has a voluntary model building energy code in place, very few municipalities have adopted it. As a result, too few Maine people building new homes have benefited from codes that provide long-term savings in energy efficiency.”

The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently found that out of the thousands of homes built each year in Maine , only about 15 percent of them since 2005 would meet even the most basic energy efficiency standards. “This legislation will ultimately lower energy costs for people building new homes and making other substantial changes at a time when energy costs seem uncontrollable,” added Senator Bartlett.

Prior to passage of this bill, Maine was the only Northeastern state, and one of only 10 nationally that did not have a statewide energy efficiency standard for new homes.

The Uniform Building and Energy Code is supported by a broad coalition of groups, including the Associated General Contractors of Maine , the Retail Lumber Dealers of Maine, and the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine and several environmental groups including GrowSmart and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.