Mayor pushes for state-level building safety reform after Florida disaster | ALX now

Last week, Mayor Justin Wilson shared information on building inspection requirements following the disaster in florida, but now the city is also pushing for state-level reform on building inspections.

The scope of the city’s implementation of building code inspection requirements is bound by the Dillon Rule, which states that localities can only exercise powers expressly granted by the state. On July 8, Wilson sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam urging him to initiate the legislative process to revise the state’s inspection requirements.

“In the hours and days following the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers condominium tower in Surfside, Florida, I received many questions from residents of Alexandria about building safety in our community. Wilson said. “As a historic and growing community, the issue of building safety related to older buildings as well as new construction is particularly interesting.”

Wilson noted that there are 57 high-rise buildings in Alexandria that are at least 40 years old and 51 high-rise buildings without sprinklers – the most of any locality in Virginia. Wilson also noted that a 2007 investigation by the Virginia Housing Commission found that Alexandria had the oldest high-rise residential buildings in Virginia.

The city issued a press release providing information on the Commonwealth State Uniform Building Code, inspection requirements for new construction, the required periodic inspection of certain systems and the identification process and correction of dangerous buildings and structures, ”Wilson said. “We did note, however, that there is currently no requirement in Virginia to proactively or regularly inspect the building structure and that a building that has received a certificate of occupancy is only re-inspected. in the event of a change of occupancy or modifications to the building which require an inspection.

Senator Scott Surovell noted on Twitter that Virginia condos are independently inspected every 5 years and that repairs are recommended, but these are often ignored by boards who enjoy immunity from liability.

Wilson noted that these studies are overseen and implemented by volunteers, not by city building code officials, and that the scope of studies contracted out to third parties is defined by these same councils.

In the letter to Governor Northam, Wilson suggested inserting language into the American Rescue Plan Act funding to create a task force to review potential changes to building inspection requirements.

“I urge you to consider including budget language establishing a stakeholder working group on the issue of building safety in the Commonwealth in the Appropriation Bill for the tranche of Commonwealth ARPA funds to be considered.” at the next special session of the General Assembly, ”Wilson said. “This working group would bring together stakeholders – including localities, building code officials, tenant groups, the development community, staff from the Department of Housing and Community Development and others to review safety. buildings in the Commonwealth and identify legislative and budgetary proposals for the 2022 session. “

The potential changes suggested by Wilson included:

  • New reporting requirements and transparency regarding current structural findings by condominium owners and associations
  • New authority for local building code officials to require building and structural inspections in their community
  • A building inspection / recertification process
  • The emergency requirements that existing older buildings must undergo structural assessments within the next year.

“The tragic condominium collapse in Florida is very unusual,” Wilson said. “There are millions of high-rise commercial and residential buildings in the United States and catastrophic structural failures like the recent disaster are, fortunately, quite rare. However, this is an opportunity for us to examine and revisit the issue of building safety in our communities and to identify ways to examine and potentially improve building safety in the Commonwealth.

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