California Building Code Updates

Article by Pamela Camack, Janette Tropea, Julie Mason.

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Upcoming changes to the California Building Standards Code (CBC) take effect on January 1, 2014*—now only two weeks away! At SGPA, our staff and consultants have studied and are already designing for the updates, which involve changes to the accessibility provisions, the green building code, and the Title 24 energy code*.

Before we go into detail about the changes, we’d like to call special attention to those of you whose retail projects are currently in process and will straddle the code changes.

IN-BETWEENERS

  • If you have submitted shell building documents for plan check prior to January 1*, the shell falls under the old code. Tenant improvements, however, will be reviewed and approved under the new code.
  • When negotiating tenant lease exhibits, please remember to include language that requires the tenant to comply with the new code. Try to avoid specifics that will be regulated, like watts/SF or footcandles maintained in parking areas.

For all our clients, here are the code changes we found most noteworthy:

ACCESS

  • CBC accessibility provisions have been merged with ADA standards so that projects in compliance with 2013 CBC will also be in compliance with ADA. This alignment helps reduce the risk of noncompliance.
  • Many code-required clearances have been changed to ranges, rather than exact dimensions. This change should make difficult field conditions easier for both project teams and inspectors.

CALGREEN

  • Green building standards were previously listed in their own part of the code (Chapter 11). This year, the State is beginning to phase out Chapter 11 in order to make CALGreen provisions an integral part of the code by relocating and blending them into the relevant CBC sections, such as energy or plumbing.
  • Each jurisdiction may enforce CALGreen provisions differently by adopting more stringent tiers and elective measures. Early in each project, we set aside time to discuss the applicable measures with the authority who has jurisdiction.

ENERGY (TITLE 24)*

  • California is striving for newly constructed commercial buildings to achieve Zero Net Energy by 2030. The updated energy efficiency standards to meet this goal will have a substantial impact on how owners design and construct their buildings.
  • In the long term these code changes will benefit owners through reduced operating and maintenance costs, but the up-front investment is greater. Clients should begin budgeting for higher construction and design costs to meet these code requirements.

We encourage all of you to keep these code changes in mind as you plan and commission projects. For our part, SGPA has already planned for these changes on all current projects in our studios. We’ve submitted several projects before the deadline, and are designing the balance to the new code.

* Energy code changes take effect July 1, 2014. Due to the stringency of these provisions, their implementation has been postponed to allow jurisdictions and engineers to prepare for them. We will be following up on this topic with a post on significant energy code changes for retail development — so stay tuned!


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