Illinois looks to catch up with rest of U.S.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

CHICAGO--Outside observers may look at Illinois as a being way ahead of the curve in terms of the fire and life safety codes and enforcement, but Ed Bonifas, vice president of Alarm Detection Systems, begs to differ.
He agrees the "collar communities" that surround this city and other large metropolitan areas tend to have very strict fire codes. Head to less populated areas downstate, however, and the strict codes disappear, Bonifas said.
"There's a lot of real estate in Illinois not covered by these codes," he said.
Bonifas believes the fire industry here would benefit from a statewide building code and he's serving on a legislative group called the Task Force on Model Building Codes, studying the advisability of doing just that.
"It would bring code enforcement and proper fire alarm codes to a whole section of the state that is not necessarily enforcing codes. It would protect the public, and I believe better codes and enforcement would be a source of business for people," Bonifas said.
According to Jennifer Gibson, public relations specialist for the International Code Council, 45 states have adopted the ICC statewide building code.
The task force includes representatives from other industries, too: plumbers, architects, engineers and home builders. It's been meeting since last summer and is charged with making a recommendation to the Legislature by this spring.
"The ugly process of building consensus is well underway," Bonifas said.
There is marginal disagreement among the group that adopting a statewide code is a good idea.
"Everyone is in favor as long as there's no tampering with their piece of it. The plumbers for example have a home-brewed code in place and they want to keep it that way," he said.
Bonifas doesn't disagree with the plumbers, but said that the task force shouldn't worry about these issues now.
Questions such as which code should be adopted will be decided by the Legislature.
"We don't have to come up with one draft ready for the governor's stamp."
Where there are controversial issues or disagreements, the task force will "accurately describe all sides of the issue" and leave it to the Legislature to debate the merits of the arguments, he said.