New building codes, certification rules take effect in Routt County in January |

New building codes, certification rules take effect in Routt County in January

Construction continues Dec. 10 on Swedwood on the Yampa at 655 Yampa St. in Steamboat Springs. Once completed, the new development will feature a mix of residential units and commercial-use spaces. (Photo by Bryce Martin)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Updated building codes and a new requirement for contractors to obtain a certification will go into effect at the start of 2021 in Routt County, putting the county more in line with how many other mountain and Front Range communities regulate construction.

While the change in building codes is not a major one, requiring contractors to obtain a certification has been on the to-do list of the building department for years, according to Todd Carr, Routt County building official.

The county will require contractors to obtain a certification to prove they have the expertise to pull permits from the county. Certifications like this are relatively common, with many states requiring them on the state level. But in Colorado it is regulated on a county level, and while not all counties have such a requirement, most Front Range and resort communities do.

Carr said requiring a certification is good for both consumers and contractors. For customers, they know that when they hire somebody to do work in Routt County, they are going to have a certain level of skill and expertise.

“It provides a level of safety, that you know that if you are hiring somebody to perform work that they have some pretty good general knowledge of what it takes and what it means to be a general contractor,” Carr said.

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It also creates a standard among contractors, ensuring someone who does not have proper knowledge and is looking to cut costs is not underbidding another contractor on a project, Carr said.

Mark Folkestad, owner of Amaron-Folkestad Construction in Steamboat Springs, said his company has been pushing to have a certification for years.

“We think it will actually help make the builders more professional and make sure that we have good builders so that the quality of building that is going on in Steamboat across the whole board isn’t affected,” Folkestad said. “I would probably say the only (contractors) that would have a problem with it would be the ones that can’t pass a certification, that really don’t know what they are doing.”

He said the only difficulty with getting certified was that COVID-19 put several changes into the training plan and then contractors got really busy doing construction.

The county is using a test created in Pitkin County to certify contractors locally, and once certified in Routt County, they would also be certified in other counties using the same test.

Many communities on the Front Range require an International Code Council certification, an exam created by the group that creates building code books. Passing this exam would also fulfill the certification requirement for the county.

Contractors can take the county’s test until the end of the year, but after that, they would be required to pass an ICC exam. Carr said it is too much work to maintain the testing longer than the year they already have.

“It is very time-consuming to be a testing center plus a building department,” Carr said.

The county also is bringing local building codes up to the 2018 version from the International Code Council. Carr said the best practice when it comes to building codes is to stay within three years of the most recent code book while not adopting the newest codes right away.

“I tend to stay three years behind as a code professional so that you can identify any issues that might arise from changes or amendments they made that are difficult in the field or difficult for designers to work with,” Carr said.

Despite that, Carr said the codes are still really up to date. Larger cities normally lead the way when it comes to adopting new codes, and Denver and other Front Range communities just adopted the 2018 codes about a year ago, Carr said.

Carr said the building department usually receives a lot of applications for permits in the last week of the year from ongoing projects that have been using the current codebook. But the code change this time around is only a three-year update, meaning there are not many major changes.

Folkestad said the new code updates do not affect his business all that much because many of the updates were about energy requirements and they tend to build with energy efficiency already in mind.

Some notable changes unique to Routt County come in regards to agricultural buildings. Historically, these types of buildings have been exempt from requiring permits, but over time, people have used this as a loophole, Carr said.

Instead of a building used to house livestock, agricultural equipment or hay, Carr said people were building mixed-use buildings that may have some agricultural purpose but also contain spaces that clearly do not and were able to avoid the permitting process.

Under the new building code, agricultural buildings that do not have walls, mainly used to store hay, as well as those that are smaller than 600 square feet and do not have any sanitary connections like sewer, would not require a permit. In all other cases, the building would need a permit.

“We want to support our agricultural community, but this really needs to be pure (agriculture) only use,” Carr said. “It cannot be mixed with anything else.”

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