Building Code Initiative Advances

March 29, 2017

The Chicago Building Code in its present form is extremely outdated. Most of the life safety chapters have not seen a major revision since the revised Building Ordinance passed the City Council on December 30, 1949.  An updating of the Chicago Building Code was actually sanctioned in 1998 and included the Electrical, Plumbing, Mechanical, Elevator and the Natural Light and Ventilations chapters.  Accessibility and Energy chapters were also added as part of this process. 

In 2004, after a draft of updated chapters was published in the Council Journal and workshops presenting the new code were conducted, the process abruptly stopped. Subsequent efforts to continue the process took place in 2010-2011, but did not result in an introduction or adoption of a fully revised and updated code. This incomplete effort has led to contradiction and inconsistency within the code text and references as the various chapters interrelate to each other.

Virtually all major cities in the United States have adopted some form of the model International Codes as published by the International Code Council (ICC), including New York City, which overhauled their code from 1968 in a process that took approximately 18 months (start-to-finish) and became effective in 2006.  Model building codes are regularly updated on fixed cycle, making them predictable as to when to expect changes.

BOMA/Chicago is a long-standing advocate for Chicago to adopt the International Building Code (IBC) model. Building Commissioner Judith Frydland recently met with BOMA/Chicago staff to discuss the City’s plan in regard to BOMA/Chicago’s initiative to move Chicago to adopting the IBC.  The IBC model allows for adopting jurisdictions to modify the code specifics to reflect local uniqueness and challenges, but is organized and cross-referenced to provide consistency with other jurisdictions.  Adoption of the IBC model would bring Chicago’s building codes in line with the rest of the nation and will attract a broader array of developers, design professionals and ultimately businesses to the City. 

Beginning in February, the Department will seek funding and resources from the City Council to hire necessary consultants to work on the adoption.  BOMA/Chicago was asked to provide information and support for the Department’s request. The City will create stakeholder groups, but will also utilize work done several years ago when the last code revision effort took place.  The Commissioner envisions a final product that will be comprised of one third of the IBC, one third of existing Chicago code, and one third new Chicago specific code. However, the format and cross referencing will follow the ICC conventions to provide more similarity with other jurisdictions.

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