Time to let MUBEC Govern?

Maine has a code issue. More to the point, Maine has two codes that govern building design and construction, and this is bad.
The Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code was adopted in 2011 as the sole building and energy code that could be enforced by municipalities. MUBEC is of course several of the International Code Council (ICC) codes, and several of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards. Throughout the United States and in other countries, these codes are the standard for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the general public.
Less extensively adopted, and admittedly not even a building code, the NFPA 101 has been the default code governing the design and construction of buildings in Maine for…as long as I have been in Maine. The NFPA 101’s requirements for life safety are not very different than the requirements in MUBEC. Areas of conflict tend to be minor.
One area of vast difference is scope: the NFPA 101, as mentioned above is not a building code. It is not interested in structural design, for instance. Buildings designed solely to the NFPA 101 may or may not be structurally sound. The 101 does not concern itself with accessibility. It does not concern itself with ventilation or heating, and it does not concern itself with energy efficiency. These are all part of the ICC’s family of codes, along with the ASHRAE standards, which are referenced by the ICC codes.

Buildings designed solely to the NFPA 101 may or may not be structurally sound.

One area of significant conflict between MUBEC and the NFPA 101 is with renovations. We are working on a renovation project that involves a change of use to a portion of a building. Under MUBEC, we are required to bring our renovated area up to code. MUBEC, and specifically the International Existing Building Code, lays out in plain language the extent of improvements that must come along with a partial renovation project. For our project, MUBEC allows us to limit life safety improvements to the renovated area: what it calls the “work area”. The NFPA 101, on the other hand, would force the entire building, even the areas not being renovated, into compliance. This NFPA 101 requirement for full compliance is leaving what is possibly hundreds of buildings languishing.
Since MUBEC is similar to the NFPA 101 with regard to life safety, and since it is a comprehensive building code, and since it is much more fair in its requirements for partial renovation projects, is it time Maine lets MUBEC govern all construction?

Follow Mike Sealander, Maine Licensed Architect:


Principal at Sealander Architects, Ellsworth Maine. Revit guru. Married with 3 children. Avid gardener. Lived in San Francisco for nine years. Master in Architecture from Columbia University Bachelor of arts in religious studies, Wesleyan University. Graduated Staples High School, Westport CT. Hope to spend some time in Hokkaido before all is said and done.