Discussion Forum Topic:

Industry Meets with Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
Original Comment:
A few weeks ago, representatives from the modular home industry met with officials from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development including Secretary Ken Holt. MHBA Executive Director Tom Hardiman, Ken Semler of Express Modular, Harris Woodward of Finishwerks, and Rick Wenner of PFS participated in the meeting for the modular industry.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to improve efficiency and to streamline the process for approvals in Maryland. The main goal of the industry was to better ensure that modular builders have “parity” to site builders in terms of regulation.

When the state adopted the building codes without amending the sprinkler system requirement for single-family homes, the Industrialized Building Program immediately fell under those requirements. However, the counties had the option to delay adoption of the new codes, and in particular that requirement, and did so. The result was that for a three-year period, the modular industry had to include sprinkler systems in homes in counties that did not require it yet, while site builders did not. The impact was added cost for modular homes and a significant loss of revenue for the industry.

Today, all homes are required to have sprinkler systems. The industry wants to make sure that in the future if new provisions are required by the code or regulation, the adoption or exceptions are more closely matched between the state and counties. Secretary Holt ensured the industry that the State wanted to work together and that the program would allow such variances on requirements in which the counties opted out.

We also discussed ways to streamline requirements for sprinkler system installations and potential delays caused by the Department’s review of third-party approved plans deemed to contain code deviations.

Division Director Allen Cartwright informed the group of the State’s plans to create an online submittal process (similar to the State of Florida) and expects that system to come online in 2017. This would allow the builder, manufacturer, ATF, and agency to better track the progress of a project. The Department also inquired about offering an expedited approval process at a higher fee if the industry would be interested. While it remains unclear what that fee would be and how much more quickly the plans could get approved, the industry expressed interest in this option.

In all, the industry felt that the meeting was productive and the agreed upon changes could speed up the overall process by about two weeks with possibly more efficiencies gained if the online system and expedited process are implemented.
Started on April 12, 2017 by Kellie McDonnell
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