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By George Porter
The HUD code is the same building code all over the nation.
In fact it is a preemptive code; this means that whenever it is
in conflict with a local building code, the HUD code is the one
to follow. No local building code can change the HUD code and
it is a good thing because it would be chopped into a thousand
little pieces by every local government trying to "customize"
it to their traditions, whims, liking, or current practices. After
the local building officials got done with it there would not
be a factory that could build a home the same way twice. If they
wanted to sell a home in each of these towns then they would have
to build it the way the town likes it. This would be a production
nightmare causing the cost to skyrocket and sales to drop like
None of this can happen though because local officials are
forbidden by the federal government to alter the present HUD code.
Having this protection is one of the reasons our homes are so
affordable, we can build them anywhere no matter where they eventually
go as long as we fit the roof, wind, and thermal regulations for
the region they go to. There are only three types of each of these
so it is not too much of a burden and for the most part they make
sense. If a home is going in the north where it is cold then it
needs a higher thermal rating to keep it warm and a greater capacity
to hold weight on the roof because of the heavy snows. If it is
going in a hurricane prone area then it should be able to withstand
the winds there.
These simple requirements cover the country and are exempt
from political borders such as state and/or county boundary lines.
It enables us to do interstate transactions free from the rules
of some local official. This means that manufacturing companies
have been able to start factories nationwide because the rules
for building the product are the same everywhere. Employees are
fairly interchangeable with little or no training because if you
can set walls in factory "X" you can probably set walls
in factory "Y". This uniformity creates a very good
labor pool that greatly contributes to the quality of the home
as well as the ability to make it affordable to the public.
All things considered, home manufacturing is running fairly
well because of having one national building code to deal with,
but what about installation?
Installation laws are about to unravel the simplicity and possibly
the affordability of our product. What is the good of having one
national building code when the last and very necessary step to
providing a home to a customer is divided thousands of ways. When
a state takes charge of the installation industry (the original
plan in the HUD Code by the way) it makes laws that suite the
practices of that state or in some cases, invent a whole new way
of doing things. If it is a big state then the laws will cover
lots of homes however every state but two border other states.
We are mostly an industry of nationwide or at least large regional
companies. In states with no set-up regulations or enforcement,
contractors have no concern for state or county lines because
the rules are all the same, there are none. Most of the nation
was this way 10 years ago and while set-up certainly had it's
problems, following rules was not one of them.
Now there is a large movement to make rules about the installation
of our homes and I fear we are about to cause ourselves more trouble.
How many states and/or counties do you know that have a reciprocal
agreements about licensing? This means that if you have a license
to set homes in one state then the state next door will honor
that license and not make you attend their certification program
to get a license there. As of this date there are only two, Illinois
and Kentucky. As far as I know they are the only ones to ever
plan for such an agreement and work toward it. Can you imagine
what it means to the dealers and set-up contractors in both states
to not have to participate in two separate programs at the same
time? Besides the expense there is the matter of time and travel
to stay current. If you are a licensed installer in Illinois then
show that license and for $50 you are licensed in Kentucky or
the other way around as well. The farther away from this idea
the industry gets, the harder and more costly it will be to do
business in a region. There are several regions in the south and
east that have areas of 4 to 6 states in a 150 mile radius or
less. It would be nearly a full time job just maintaining a license
in all of them if they didn't have some sort of reciprocal agreement.
One state official recently told me that he would be glad to reciprocate
with any state as long as they were exactly like his. Apparently
lots of other states feel the same way but they are not planning
to change their rules either so nothing happens. The states lose
nothing by this policy but the industry sure does. We need more
than just installation laws, we need nationwide planning or we
will be solving one problem and creating another at the same time.