I was invited to join almost 40 other industry representatives at a forum within sight of the state capitol on Monday to discuss Senate Bill 1106, championed by the International Code Council (ICC), to adopt one plumbing code for the state—the International Plumbing Code (IPC).

The Subject Matter Experts where the building officials of Texas’ 4 largest municipalities, with a brief summary of their remarks included here:

  • Houston:  No official position, but they were already actively studying a move to the IPC even before this bill was introduced.  They utilize heavily amended codes and have strong local advocates for both codes (IPC & UPC).
  • Dallas:  No representatives were present, but they sent a letter clearly indicating their support for one code (they already adopted the IPC and other I-Codes).
  • Austin:  Their officials researched and recommended adoption of the International Residential Code (IRC) last year, but the plan was rejected by the City Council.  They had intentionally avoided a confrontation over the commercial plumbing code (they are still under the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC)).
  • San Antonio:  They adopted the full I-Codes in 2009 with a few amendments.  They experienced some resistance, but most turned out to be simply opposed to change.

From the meeting discussion as well as my personal conversations with a few Texas Legislators conversant in these topics, the pros & cons may be summarized as follows:

  • Pros
    • More plumbing and inspection consistency state-wide
    • Greater portability of plumbing professionals state-wide
    • Streamlined and improved plumbing training & licensing examinations
    • Generally more flexibility & lower cost complying with the IPC
    • Consistency between the IPC and other International Building Codes
  • Cons
    • Reduction of local control (although the bill still allows local amendment)
    • Small communities would be forced to upgrade (with limited resources)
    • The UPC is broadly considered a more stringent code (higher standard)
    • There will still be variations since municipalities are not forced to adopt and are left with the ability to amend the code to meet local concerns

I had always heard that approximately 75% of Texas was under the IPC with 25% under the UPC (per the IAPMO representative conveying this to me personally).  I was interested to learn that only 8 out of almost 1,200 Texas municipalities still have the UPC as their adopted code (according to the ICC):  Alpine, Austin, Cibolo, Galena Park, Houston, Junction, La Porte, Pasadena.

I repeated the personal concern I shared during the Sunset Commission review that we have 1 plumbing license but a patchwork of plumbing codes.  State vs Local control is a valid topic for debate at a much higher level, but we have a disconnect between the two now which results in inconsistent training, less practical plumbing license examinations (to accommodate the different codes), as well as varying plumbing requirements and inspection expectations among municipalities in close proximity.

The ICC expects a companion House bill to be introduced this week (see HB 3622).  The respective bills will proceed through committees in both the House and Senate before possibly being considered by both chambers.  As always, we encourage our clients to consider this proposal and then contact your State Representative and Senator to voice your thoughtful position.

[Constructive comments worthy of licensed professionals are welcomed below.]