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Chicago Passes New Electrical Code

September 15, 2017


With BOMA/Chicago's support, the Chicago City Council has passed a major update to the Chicago Electrical Code.  The new code will make Chicago one of the first major cities to align with the 2017 National Electrical Code.

The update will remove existing obstacles to employing state of the art building technology that exists today, while ensuring the safety of building occupants and installers. It will also aid developers, building owners, and the design and construction industry by reducing the time and costs spent in the permitting and inspection process. These efficiencies will allow building owners - and the more than 12,000 employers housed in BOMA/Chicago buildings - to redirect more investment into wages, job creation, and economic growth.

The current Chicago Electrical Code is based on the 1999 National Electrical Code. The new code update moves Chicago closer to national standards in several significant areas, including:

  • New lighting calculation methods and technologies that allows up to an 83 percent reduction in lighting design loads, which significantly lowers the cost of electrical installations in multi-family residential and commercial buildings as well as reduces electricity
  • Eight new code articles allowing for sustainable technology including solar power and other renewable energy installations and storage
  • Redrafted provisions on health care facilities with enhanced technology and safety
  • Updated requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in new buildings

Additionally, approximately half of the 156 articles in the National Electrical Code are being adopted with no local amendments, and many other articles are being adopted with only minor amendments.

"In 2015 we reinstated the city's Electrical Commission after a hiatus of 14 years specifically to study opportunities to update the Electrical Code," said Building Commissioner Judy Frydland. "I am grateful to all members of the Electrical Commission for their hard work and expertise. This update clarifies requirements for state-of-the-art technologies which ultimately reduce the time for permitting and inspections, and save time and money for the building industry."

The new code retains several requirements that have provided enhanced electrical safety in Chicago, notably strict requirements for the use of metal conduit and longstanding requirements on emergency lighting, emergency generators and electrical sign regulation.

It will also codifies a February memorandum that permitted use of flexible metal conduit, armored cable, and metal-clad cable in some existing walls, partitions and ceilings during existing building rehabilitation.

BOMA/Chicago provided written testimony on the code revisions to the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards at its hearing on August 30.  The Committee approved the proposed code and it was later passed by the full Council on September 6.