I’m writing to address some inaccurate information included in the June 17 Herald Weekly article “Saying Goodbye to Davidson IB.” Much of this information was also previously given to your staff in October 2010, when the paper wrote an article that we felt was similarly inaccurate.
There are three main points of error.

1) While the Davidson IB Middle School was originally constructed in 1948, to say “any repairs made to the building would force district officials to bring it up to current code” is incorrect.  Since 2002, the North Carolina Rehab Code has been available for use by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Mecklenburg County’s Rehab Code Team went out of its way to explain its benefits to CMS staff when the code was first introduced.

The Rehab Code is an innovative approach to working on existing structures; it allows the owner’s Architectural/Engineering team to effectively manage the scope of code-required changes.  Work can range from simple repairs and renovations, to more sweeping alterations or even reconstruction (gut renovation), but in most cases, the requirements are less and far more cost effective than applying the new construction code to existing structures.

2) Accessibility issues at Davidson IB are no different than at any other comparable school that CMS has chosen not to renovate since the inception of North Carolina’s Accessibility Code in 1973, or the Americas with Disabilities Act in 1991.  If the school system had chosen to renovate the Davidson IB, the NC Accessibility Code requires allocating 20 percent of the cost of construction to upgrade the accessible path of travel, in a strategy proposed by the Architectural/Engineering team, typically based on a set of priorities outlined in the original ADA law.

3) To say “A loophole in state law allowed the building to pass its inspection” is incorrect.  In North Carolina, buildings constructed under one generation of the code are not required to automatically upgrade facilities to comply with a new generation of the code.  In other words, except for a limited set of requirements imposed specifically in the NC General Statutes, we generally do not have retroactive building codes in North Carolina.  So what you characterize as a “loophole” is no different than the law that exempts the residence you live in from complying with the 2009 NC Residential Code, even though it was likely constructed under a previous code.

– James N. Bartl, AIA
Director of Code Enforcement
Mecklenburg County Government

Editor’s Note: Due to the concerns raised by Mr. Bartl, the Herald Weekly removed “Saying Goodbye to Davidson IB” from its website.