Monday, October 30, 2017

My Interview with MD’s Director of Code Administration

In today’s ever increasing regulated world of modular construction, finding someone at the state level to answer questions is getting hard to find and learning who to talk to is even tougher.

norman w.jpg

An exception to this is Norman Wang, RA, Director, Maryland Codes Administration Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.


Maryland has always been one of the first to adopt the newest IRC regulations and keeping up with all the changes is a challenge for even the best modular engineering departments.

Mr. Wang agreed to answer some questions about how and what his department does to help the modular industry.

Modcoach: We know that protecting new home buyers and insuring they get a safe and well built home that meets all existing building codes is your Department's primary duty. So why do modular homes fall under your department’s watchful eye when there are third party inspection agencies authorized by the state that approve factory plans along with a PE stamp?

Mr Wang: Third party inspection agencies play an integral role in the statutory and regulatory scheme for comprehensively reviewing and approving plans as well as attachment of Department labels for modular buildings.  The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development conducts a high-level review to ensure that no major errors have been made. Although most plans reviewed by the Department are found to be accurate, the Department has found errors in some plans, which have been reviewed and submitted to the Department by third party inspection agencies.

Modcoach: If local code enforcement officials in your state cannot inspect a manufactured home (HUD) for code violations why not begin including them in the same detailed process as modular housing?

Mr Wang: Manufactured homes (HUD homes) fall under federal regulations, which dictate the procedures of inspections.

Modcoach: What can the modular factory, modular builder and third party inspection agencies do to help your department process the plans more efficiently?

Mr Wang: The most effective way to minimize delay of plans approval by this office is for the third party inspection agencies and the Department to continue to communicate on ways to improve efficiency on both sides.The Department is currently implementing an online system, which will allow online submission of applications, building plans, credit card payments, etc. The goal is to minimize the time required for the Department to respond to requests from manufacturers and third party inspection agencies.

Modcoach: One of the biggest complaints I hear from modular home builders is the amount of paperwork that must be submitted to the local code offices. If your department, the third party and a PE have already signed off on the modular plans, what can be done to streamline the local code officer’s approval?

Mr Wang: The approval process by a local jurisdiction for zoning, building permits and work performed on-site is dictated by local laws and regulations.  If you can provide more details on the paperwork the local jurisdictions are requiring,the Department can review if the material being submitted is within the local jurisdiction’s authority or the Department’s authority.  If there is some duplication,the Department is committed to work with the industry to make the process more efficient.

Modcoach: There seems to be so many new types of homes being built in factories that were not seen before such a tiny houses, Auxiliary Housing Units, Med cottages and granny pods. How is your department preparing for their approvals?

Mr Wang: This office is a regulatory agency for modular and industrialized building construction. Approved building types are those allowed in International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code(IRC).  Current adopted edition is 2015.  As required by law, the Department will adopt the 2018 edition of the IBC and IRC by March 2019.  In general, the Department will follow the IBC and IRC for the types of modular building permitted under these codes. There is a new appendix for tiny houses in the 2018 IRC, which the Department plans to adopt.  

However, whether tiny houses can be installed in Maryland depends on individual local jurisdictions’ zoning regulations.  Other types of buildings which have been discussed for the past few years are shipping container-based construction.  

The Department currently accepts only ICC’s AC462 as the criteria when approving this type of construction in modular buildings.

Mr Wang, I would like thank you for taking time to talk with me about what your Department does and what is coming up in the near future.

Hopefully we will be talking again about modular homes in Maryland.


Anonymous said...

At one time I considered Maryland to be the tougher of states to get a home approved. Now New York takes the title.

Tom Hardiman said...

Maryland has improved significantly in the last few years. Perhaps its no coincidence that they have a much more business friendly Governor now. Even so, Norman Wang has always been open and willing to talk with the industry about improvements.

Anonymous said...

Remember what the new york guy said about rubber stamping. If ny is tough now it’s cause someone tried to slip something by. He was “not comfortable “ with some modular stuff.