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Chicago Building Code to Get Major Overhaul

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with the city’s Department of Buildings, recently announced a major update to the city’s building code, representing the first major revisions to the standard in 70 years.

Officials say that the updates will “reduce barriers to cost-effective construction by expanding options to design and build with a wider range of materials and technologies.”

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with the city’s Department of Buildings, recently announced a major update to the city’s building code, representing the first major revisions to the standard in 70 years.

“Being a world-class city and attracting the talent and businesses that keep our economy growing requires that Chicago is at the top of national standards from the ground up,” said Emanuel.

“We are modernizing our building code for the 21st [century] to advance sustainability, make construction more cost-effective and continue our city’s reputation for innovative design and world-renowned architecture.”

Proposed Changes

The changes aim to streamline the permitting process, add more flexibility and options for construction materials, align with model codes and national standards and promote greater use of green technologies and best practices for sustainable building design and construction, according to officials.

More specifically, the updated code will:

  • Adopt specific, up-to-date requirements for a wide range of building materials such as walls, roofs and other construction that will provide guidelines and standards that are lacking in Chicago’s existing code;
  • Require sprinkler systems in new construction including hotels, most apartment buildings with more than four units, places of assembly with more than 300 occupants and new office buildings higher than 70 feet tall;
  • Adopt risk-based structural design requirements;
  • Reduce minimum ceiling heights;
  • Provide more options to meet light and ventilation requirements;
  • Provide additional flexibility and options for rehab work;
  • Make it easier to construct green buildings;
  • Adopt seismic design requirements for critical facilities such as hospitals and fire stations and some taller buildings; and
  • Adopt the International Building Code’s widely used terminology and classification systems for building occupancies and construction types.

Officials note that revisions to the code have been ongoing for more than a year, as the DOB has worked with the Chicago Fire Department, other city departments and more than 150 volunteer experts and industry leaders.

“From the beginning of this monumental effort we’ve led a consensus-based approach and worked together with a wide-variety of stakeholders to better align Chicago’s building code with model codes and standards,” said Building Commissioner Judy Frydland.

“This accomplishment would not have been possible if not for the time and resources that were volunteered by so many within Chicago’s design, construction and development communities.”

The changes will be phased in gradually beginning June 1 and completely replace the current code by Aug. 1, 2020.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Good Technical Practice; Government; International Building Code; Laws and litigation; NA; North America

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