Did you know that anyone can write a code change? Sometimes the current code language may be written in such a manner that the original intention is being misinterpreted or misunderstood. To clarify the intent of the code, one can submit a code change that would provide the clarification.
Late last year, BRR Architecture submitted five code changes to change the language in the 2018 International Building Code (IBC) and International Plumbing Code (IPC). All five changes were approved by the International Code Council (ICC), and the changes will become part of the 2021 version of the codes. These code changes developed as a result of recurring questions throughout projects and the need for language clarification, adjustments or complete development.
Here are the five changes which were approved:
#1 Should doors found in a dressing, fitting or changing room follow the same requirements of a means of egress?
Doors that serve as a means of egress are required to provide at least 32 inches of clear width. Some code officials were requiring that the door to the fitting room needed to comply with this requirement. Some code officials viewed the door as a means of egress and required compliance as there was no language in the IBC to allow for a smaller door in this specific application. Until the 2018 IBC, technically doors serving a toilet stall were required to comply with this requirement as well.
The 2018 IBC introduced language that allowed for doors for toilet stalls and doors for saunas and shower compartments to be less than 32 inches. BRR presented a change to allow for doors that serve single user shower or sauna compartments, toilet stalls, or dressing, fitting or changing rooms to be a minimum of 20 inches. By stating the minimum size, there is at least some minimum requirement that must be met, but not require the 32 inches specified for egress.
#2 Can a common service sink be utilized by multiple retail tenants within a shopping mall instead of each retail tenant having their own?
Under the IPC, service sinks are required for all retail buildings as well as retail tenant spaces, which would include individual tenant spaces within a shopping mall. While the IPC recognizes that toilets and drinking fountains can be provided for all users of a shopping mall, including employees, there was no language about having a centrally located service sink for smaller tenants.
BRR wrote a change to allow for a common service sink that could be used by multiple tenants within a covered mall, provided it was within 300 feet of the tenant space and not more than one story above or below the tenant space. The service sink must also be on an accessible route so that an employee with a disability could still have access to the sink.
#3 Where is the language for how to layout a toilet room?
Currently, the only source of how toilet compartments are to be sized (for non-accessible compartments) and plumbing fixtures are to be spaced, is found in the IPC. If a designer does not have access to the IPC, there are no provisions in the IBC on how to layout a toilet room.
BRR submitted a change which takes language directly from the IPC and places it in Chapter 29 of the IBC, which is the plumbing-related chapter. This new language provides specifics on how the compartments are to be sized and how the fixtures (lavatories, toilets, urinals, etc.) are to be spaced in relation to adjacent walls or partitions as well as from each other.
#4 How should we provide an area of refuge inside a single-story building, should one be needed for accessibility?
In the 2018 IBC, and previous versions, if a single-story building needed two accessible means of egress and only one is at grade, the IBC would require that the area of refuge be on the exterior of the building as the code is silent on how to provide that same level of protection inside the building.
BRR presented a code change which provides specifics on how an interior area of refuge can be provided in a single-story building in order to provide an accessible means of egress when one cannot be provided at grade level.
#5 How should we apply static dampers in a fire-resistance-rated floor/ceiling assembly?
Duct work that is used for heating and air conditioning, as well as for environmental air systems such as bathroom exhaust fans, is required to be either a static or a dynamic system. Dynamic systems allow for the system to continue to operate in the event of a fire where static systems require the system to shut down during a fire. When it comes to hotel projects, a lot of these ducts are installed within the floor cavity which is required to be a one-hour fire-resistance-rated floor. When the duct penetrates the floor to serve the unit below, the code requires that the duct be protected with a damper, which will cause the opening to close in the event of a fire.
Per Underwriters Laboratories (UL), there are no dampers that are manufactured that are dynamic for installation in this type of situation. As a result, only static dampers are available. However, the code is somewhat silent on the requirements when a static damper is provided. BRR submitted a code change which gives options on how to utilize static dampers in this type of installation.
How the code change process works:
This process is repeated every three years to provide for the codes to be as current as possible. For more information about the International Code Council, visit www.iccsafe.org
Eirene has more than 20 years of experience working nationally with building and fire codes. Prior to joining BRR, Eirene served as a Building Official, a Building Inspector ad a Senior Plans analyst.