301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

12.6.22 — Business Report

Louisiana will implement new construction codes based on updated international standards starting Jan. 1.

The code changes likely will add new costs for builders, who in many cases already are pulling back as the residential housing market slows down, and could lead to higher prices for inflation-weary consumers. 

“Any time you adopt a new code it raises costs,” says Mark Joiner, executive director of the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council. “But the flip side of that is if you are building a more resilient, more energy-efficient home, then your insurance rates are much lower.”

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Legislature mandated periodic adoption of the most current international standards within five years. The council was unable to adopt the 2018 update because the pandemic derailed the public meetings, so state officials skipped ahead to standards written in 2021. 

Many of the changes relate to energy efficiency and electrical safety. Starting July 1, residential construction will be inspected for compliance with the energy code, which has not been required under current rules.

Heavy timber construction will be allowed up to 180 feet, a change the state’s timber industry has sought amid high prices for steel and concrete, Joiner adds. 

Karen Zito, president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Baton Rouge, says the association has been holding classes about the changes and more are scheduled for this year.

For residential flood zone construction, Joiner says the council adopted a standard of base flood elevation plus one foot of free board for residential construction at the urging of the governor’s office and FEMA. However, implementation of those standards has been postponed to August 1, pending an expected legislative review. 

“We feel sure that the legislature is going to weigh in on that decision,” he says.