Town Talk: Building Safety Month

May is building safety month. Just like organizations that have a recognition month or week, building codes do also. When people reference building codes it encompasses more than just building codes. Building codes can include many different items that make up the structure, from plumbing, mechanical, fire, energy and accessibility codes. The codes are all tied together in some way, and one code book can reference one or more code books, depending on the situation that is being looked at.

Therefore, when you have questions on a code issue, the code officials may be able to answer the question right away, when it is a common item, such as a stair rise and run. But other times the officials may need to do some research on the question, so they are able to reference the code books and come up with the correct answer.

The codes are the minimum requirements for the construction, alteration and additions made to structures. The builder can do more than the code requires, but is not to do less than the code, even when there are no inspections done on the construction. The Minnesota State Building Code is a state-wide code, but there are places that have no inspections done.

Some look at the inspections as the evil part of the code, but inspections can be looked at as Quality Control of the build. Just as in the manufacturing world there are plans for the parts to be made, people building the parts, and people looking at the parts to make sure they meet the specifications that are outlined on the plan. The manufacturer wants to make sure they are providing a quality product for the consumer, and that is what the builder and inspector should be doing also.

This process should start at the beginning of the project, with a complete set of plans, and conversations with the plan reviewers, to make sure it is meeting the minimum requirements of the code. Then as the build is moving toward completion, the builder should be calling for inspections so the inspector can verify that the structure is being built to the plans. There will be changes along the way, but if there is good communication with the builder and inspector, these can be handled in a timely and efficient manner. If the process starts without a plan, there are many and costly problems that can arise and delay the project.

If you are planning a building project, please contact your local Building Safety Department with any questions before you start.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to