More than 1,500 changes to the International Code Council's 2015 model codes were proposed at the organization's annual conference in Portland, OR, last November, many of which promised to impact the commercial real estate industry significantly.
Safe, achievable, and cost-effective codes are the goal for these annual hearings, but the growing influence of powerful product manufacturers and special interest industry groups means that code hearings require strong participation by building professionals.
That's why a coalition representing building owners, real estate professionals, and construction groups focused on three key topics that could most impact commercial building professionals:
- Coordinating ICC codes with the 2010 ADA standards
- Including added advantages for sprinkler system installation instead of using more costly passive fire protection measures
- Defeating onerous and costly proposals introduced by narrow industry groups
The progress made in Portland results in billions of dollars in savings for commercial real estate to the tune of $3.50 per square foot for existing buildings throughout the country.
1) Universal ADA Compliance
The 2010 ADA standards, which went into effect on March 15, 2012, are now required for all new commercial construction and most renovations to existing properties. An ongoing effort by BOMA to develop and implement these regulations resulted in the approval of a group of proposals defining new requirements within ICC's codes.
Those codes, which are routinely adopted by state and local governments, will result in more universal ADA compliance and added accessibility for persons with disabilities in new and existing buildings.
2) Streamlined Sprinkler Revisions
Voting members at the conference approved multiple proposals to accommodate the benefits of sprinkler systems into rewritten sections of the International Building Code.
These revisions include new tables that eliminate the need to separately calculate sprinkler incentives, making it easier to determine allowable building height and area. These changes result in potentially significant design and construction cost savings for building professionals.
Voters also defeated a costly proposal to require sprinklered properties up to 75 feet high to construct elevator lobby enclosures on all floors. This change would have forced unnecessary and expensive mandates on new and existing buildings alike, with a cost estimated at roughly $3 per square foot for a 10-story building housing 100,000 square feet. At an average of $30,000 to install all the necessary elevator lobby components on every floor, that prototype building ends up with a $300,000 bill.
Other onerous fire protection proposals – such as mandatory installation of fire-protected doors in existing buildings adjacent to new construction projects and the elimination of unenclosed stairs in business and retail spaces – met a similar fate, preventing costly code compliance mandates.