Hawaii County Council and the Emperor’s New Building Codes (Bill 270)

By RJ Hampton, Sativa Jones and Ken Long

There are numerous errors in Hawaii County Council Bill 270 that compromise the intent of the Building Code.

Bill 270 relocates words and reorganizes sentences and paragraphs such that its intent becomes confusing and definitely not user-friendly.

The following is only a partial list of problems with Bill 270; there are many other inconsistencies, omissions and ambiguities not listed here.

1. Most importantly, Bill 270 Draft 1 Chapter 1 was never copied in Ramseyer format. (Ramseyer is a legislative process showing deletions and additions.) This fact prevented the general public from being able to follow the changes. It also makes it very difficult to perform an audit of past changes to the bill.

2. Bill 270 revisited the  “International Energy Conservation Code” (IECC) and made changes without the proper ramseyer format. Therefore, the general public has no idea that changes were made.

3. The IECC with amendments was added as section 5-84. This was the old numbering system when the International Building Code (IBC) had a chapter 34 for energy conservation. It refers to the IECC without any amendments. Therefore there is a conflict in code usage. The IECC must be moved to chapter 34.

4. Bill 270 (page 33) refers to IBC numbering when it should refer to Chapter 5. Again, this causes confusion and makes the code very difficult for the average citizen to use.

5. For the last 2 years the administration has not produced a proper cross reference index for Bill 270. They say they are going to do it after the bill is passed. Not having a cross reference index has made it almost impossible to review and vet Bill 270. This does not allow for the CITIZENS, COUNTY or ADMISTRATION to properly review and vet two thirds of Bill 270. Therefore, to produce the numbering after it has passed is counterproductive to the review process.

6. The Administration section of the IBC, as written, is very punitive and arbitrary with respect to interpretations and enforcement. There are areas in Bill 270 that have minor word changes or deletions that have a major impact on the intent and enforcement of this bill. For example, a permit is required for a stepped retaining wall. Bill 270 defines a stepped retaining wall at exactly 8 feet 0 inches apart, which means it won’t be considered a single wall if it is 7 feet 11 inches apart (the intent of the IBC is eight feet or less).

7. In Draft 7 (page 80) table 402.1.1 Installation and Fenestration requirements floor r-value was amended to 0 from 13. We found this inconsistency–but again, it was not available in ramseyer format.

8. Bill 270 did not define “substandard” in Section 202 of Definitions, but provides an extensive list of substandard conditions, each one of which can be easily interpreted to create violations and fines. Also, any remodeling permit will allow an inspector to enter the premise, at which time he can look for as many substandard conditions as he can. (That’s why people don’t take out permits!)

9. The substandard policy in Bill 270 can be used to harass people by imposing fines and liens on their property. For example, lack of weatherproofing or having a sink or shower basin that does not meet current standards would be called substandard conditions and that would allow for violations and fines.

10. Substandard is considered slang and is no longer being used in current codes. Kauai and Maui have removed the language ‘Substandard Conditions’ from their codes and are following the properly defined language of the IBC while the Big Island has retained this archaic language to be used as a leverage to harass individuals.

11. Tents are only permitted in public campgrounds — but not private properties. If you have visitors that are also campers they are not allowed to set up a tent on your property.

12. The numbering system does not allow for easily cross reffence to the IBC, which we are mandated to adopt and amend.

13. Bill 270 refers to the “International Residential Code” 3 times without providing the edition, nor have we adopted the International Residential Code.

14. Requirements for owner builder permits are rather restrictive and discourage owner builder permits for moderate and low income housing because they have to hire contractors and technically would not be permitted to do the work themselves. These also include home roofing permits according to one source who said they also do commercial repair with the best materials for their job, like Loft Boards. They are definitely putting more restrictions on roofers.


We encourage Hawaii County citizens to appear at the Hawaii County Council Building on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, at 8am.