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Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin slows updates of building and safety codes Critics say anti-regulatory bent is driving state’s failure to address potential hazards and adopt money-saving advances

Many of the building code advisory councils established to advise the state have not met in years, and many state codes have not been promptly updated to reflect contemporary national models. These models, when they exist, are typically updated every three years. The following chart presents relevant information in selected code areas. Not all code areas have regularly updated national models, as noted by the N/A, for “Not Applicable.”

Code areaLast meeting of advisory councilLast code overhaul (Clearinghouse Rule No.)Last national model adoptedLatest national model available
Amusement Rides5/6/20081/1/09 (CR 08-054)N/AN/A
Boilers and Pressure Vessels9/14/20116/1/12 (CR 11-047)20102013
Commercial buildings2/17/20119/1/11 (CR 10-103)20092015
Electrical10/6/201112/1/13 (CR 13-042)20112014
Energy Conservation10/28/20099/1/11 (CR 10-103)20092015
Fire Department Safety and Health10/1/20131/1/02 (CR 01-044)20012015
Fire Prevention*9/24/20139/1/14 (CR 15-105)20122012
Gas Systems11/30/20109/1/11 (CR 11-002)20092012
Multi-Family Dwellings2/17/20119/1/11 (CR 10-103)20092015
One and Two-Family Dwellings5/12/2014 N/AN/A
Public Employee Safety and Health2/21/20129/1/2004 (CR 04-009)N/AN/A
Plumbing8/4/20101/1/2011 (CR 10-064)N/AN/A
Public Swimming Pools7/28/20103/1/2009 (CR 08-056)N/AN/A

* Fire Prevention: One of four meetings held that year, after none in 2011 and 2012.
** One and Two-Family Dwellings: One set of code changes was adopted Sept. 1, 2014, though CR 14-05; other recommended changes are working their way through the process.

Sources: Chart prepared for the Alliance for Regulatory Coordination by Robert DuPont; list of codes on state Department of Safety and Professional Services website; Wisconsin Legislature Clearinghouse Rules.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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One reply on “Wisconsin councils often inactive, as codes lag national models”

  1. Regarding your article on “Slow to Update Safety Codes”, fire protection was briefly mentioned. As a point of interest, devices known as fire dampers and smoke dampers are installed in just about every HVAC system in hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, office buildings, etc. They prevent the spread of fire and/or smoke and are installed in ductwork at or near fire and smoke walls. They are an integral part of a facilities fire protection system as much as sprinklers are. Healthcare facilities are required to have them inspected as part of their facilities life safety systems (hospitals every 6 years & all others every 4 years). In Wisconsin we have four seasons. As buildings go through heating and cooling cycles the buildings internal components, i.e., fire protection, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems may move so to speak. Thermal expansion and contraction is inevitable. If a buildings dampers have never been inspected, its entirely possible that those devices installed to save lives will not operate. The State of Wisconsin needs to see that building owners are complying with all life safety inspections, not just healthcare facilities.

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