Innovative Materials and Systems Pilot Program

What is the Innovative Materials and Systems Pilot Program?

The Innovative Materials and Systems Pilot Program allows rural owner-builders of small innovative dwellings the option of seeking an exemption from some aspects of currently adopted building codes.

Projects participating in this program will not be required to apply for a traditional building permit or undergo plan review or building inspections.

Participating projects must still comply with all other County, State and Federal codes including maintaining applicable setbacks, installing permitted wastewater systems and obtaining permits for grading and drainage if applicable.  Home Owner Association approval, if applicable, is also required.


The purpose of the Pilot Program is to support community members who are interested in utilizing sustainable and innovative building methods, materials and systems that are outside the scope of prescriptive building codes. Building codes exist to ensure the safety of the built environment, but are limited to mainstream construction. This can sometimes stifle innovation and sustainable building practices. 

The International Code Council (ICC) codes do not prohibit the use of any material or method, but when a method or material is not addressed by the ICC, code officials are challenged to evaluate them for safety. These circumstances often require engineering and this can add significant cost to a project. By mitigating the financial and regulatory burdens with building code compliance, this Pilot Program supports rural residential owner-builders who want to build using new technology, innovative approaches, and culturally traditional building practices that fall within the Pilot Program’s requirements.


View and/or download Pilot Program documents:


Cordwood construction has typically required engineering for a building permit and qualifies as an alternative method under the Pilot Program. Other methods include, but are not limited to, papercrete, hempcrete, earthbag and earthen construction as well as use of reclaimed materials.


In order to participate in the Pilot Program, all of the following qualifications must be met:

  • Parcel is zoned AR or G
  • Parcel is 2-½ acres or larger
  • Total construction area is 600 sf or less (buildings shall be measured using interior dimensions)
  • Dwelling is 1 story
  • An alternative method, material or system that is difficult to permit prescriptively is employed
  • Dwelling is owner-occupied; will not be rented or sold for 1 year
  • Dwelling will be constructed by owner, or by licensed contractors with the owner-builder acting as the General Contractor
  • Signed affidavits attesting to compliance with electrical, mechanical, fire and plumbing code will be submitted at completion of  the project
  • A Notice of Disclosure Statement stating that a Pilot Program building permit is being issued pursuant to the Amendment will be signed and submitted. This Notice will be recorded to the deed of the property and shared with the County Assessor
  • A consultation with the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program is required before an applicant can apply for a Pilot Program permit. See contact information at the bottom of this page.

Shipping container reuse and earthen materials currently qualify as alternative methods under the Pilot Program


  • When permitting your project through the Pilot Program rather than the traditional building permit process, you will not receive a Certificate of Occupancy. This may impact your ability to obtain home owners' insurance or a mortgage for your building.
  • The Building Division will also not issue a green card for utility connections. Utility companies may not be willing to connect to your structure without this approval from a building inspector. The Building Division has developed a Substantive Policy for Electrical Services Intended for the Innovative Materials and Systems Pilot Program for pedestal/pole mount service entrance panels as a way to afford Pilot Program participants access to utility service grid power.


Step 1:  Applicant participates in scheduled consultation with CCSBP. Proposed project is discussed and guidance is given. Staff identifies if project qualifies for the Pilot Program.

Step 2:  Upon acceptance into the Pilot Program, the applicant applies online through the Online Permit Center. The following items must be uploaded to the permit in order for the submittal to be complete.

  1. A site plan
  2. A floor plan of the structure 
  3. A signed and notarized Notice of Disclosure Statement

Step 3:  Notice of Disclosure Statement is recorded with the Coconino County Recorder by Community Development and shared with the County Assessor’s Office. The Fire District having jurisdiction will also be notified.

Step 4:  No Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Completion will be issued. The Sustainable Building Program will conduct a final site visit to document project information.

Step 5:  After construction, the owner shall submit signed Affidavits of compliance with Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Fire codes to the Sustainable Building Program.  

Step 6:  When all Pilot Program documents have been received and wastewater and other applicable permits are final, the dwelling may be occupied.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I build a loft as part of my Pilot Program project? 

A: Yes, lofts are allowed within the Pilot Program. A loft is defined in the International Residential Code as "a floor level located more than 30 inches above the main floor, open to the main floor on one or more sides with a ceiling height of less than 6 feet 8 inches and used as a living or sleeping space." A loft isn't included in the square footage of the home.

Q: Can I add a deck or other structure onto my home?

A: A deck can be included as long as the total construction area (including the deck) is 600 square feet or less.

Q: Can I install a tent as my Pilot Program structure?

A: Tents are not allowed as a dwelling in the Pilot Program. Yurts are allowed as long as they include the required dwelling elements for cooking and sanitation, including a water closet, lavatory, bathtub/shower and kitchen sink.

Q: Can I avoid the installation of a wastewater system by installing a composting toilet and gray water system?

A: Arizona state gray water code requires that the on-site wastewater system for a home be fully sized to accommodate the gray water at times when the gray water system cannot be used. A wastewater system will therefore still be required, though a 40% reduction in system size is given when composting toilets are installed in place of flush toilets.

Q: Can a separate bath house be built for the bathroom?

A: Separate buildings can be constructed as long as the total construction area is 600 square feet or less and the buildings are connected with a breezeway.

Q: What percentage of the structure must be built of alternative materials or methods in order to qualify for the Pilot Program?

A: Fifty percent of the building envelope must be built of alternative methods or materials in order to qualify.

Q: My property is less than 2-1/2 acres (or my property is not in the required zone). Can I apply for a variance?

A: The Pilot Program has no provision for variances. Projects must comply with all the Program qualifications in order to participate.


A short video about the Pilot Program created by Sustainability Aide Lauren Bernas


Pilot Program Duration

The Innovative Materials and Systems Pilot Program will continue through the duration of the current building code as adopted through Ordinance 2019-10. This code will be in place for approximately 6 years. As part of the process of the next code adoption, the Pilot Program will be evaluated and a determination will be made as to whether the program will continue into the next code cycle.

For further information about the Pilot Program or to schedule a consultation, contact Nina Schmidt, Sustainable Building Program Manager, at or (928) 679-8882.