Modernizing Chicago's Construction Codes

Overview

Chicago’s building code and fire code reflect nearly 150 years of wisdom about how to build well and how to build safely in a dense urban environment. Construction requirements, however, must reflect not only the lessons of the past but also provide a framework for the future. The City of Chicago is in the middle of a multi-year effort to realign Chicago’s construction codes, based on widely-used model construction codes, while maintaining longstanding requirements that are well-adapted to local conditions. The current effort began in 2015 and is planned for completition in 2021.

 

Phase 1: Electrical Code and Conveyance Device Code

In 2015, Commissioner Judith Frydland reinstated the long-dormant Electrical Commission and charged its members with developing major updates to the Chicago Electrical Code, based on the latest edition of the National Electrical Code. At the same time, she tasked a group of leaders in the elevator industry with developing a framework to update the City’s requirements for elevators and other conveyance devices based on ASME A17.1 and related standards. The new electrical code was adopted in September 2017 and became mandatory March 1, 2018. The new conveyance device code was adopted in March 2018 and became mandatory October 1, 2018.

 

Phase 2: Administrative Provisions, Building Code, Rehabilitation Code, and Minimum Requirements for Existing Buildings

In 2018, with the Phase 1 codes updates underway, the Department of Buildings began working with other city departments and internal stakeholders to review the International Building Code and related model construction codes published by the International Code Council. Previous efforts to incorporate provisions of the IBC in Chicago had been largely unsuccessful. After developing internal drafts and a project framework, the Department recruited over 150 industry leaders to provide input. Between December 2018 and March 2019, six technical working groups met weekly to review drafts line-by-line, while a stakeholder oversight group met monthly to provide strategic insight and direction. After several spirted meetings, the stakeholder group made a consensus recommendation to move forward with adoption. A 776-page Phase 2 ordinance was adopted in April 2019.

The Phase 2 changes will phase in gradually, with new energy conservation requirements taking effect June 1, 2019; administrative changes effective July 1, 2019; and the new building code requirements becoming optional on December 1, 2019 and mandatory for permit applications started on or after August 1, 2020.

 

Phase 3: Fire Code (Hazardous Occupancies), Mechanical Code, Plumbing Code, and other provisions

In late 2019, the Department plans to announce its framework for considering updates to plumbing and mechanical (HVAC, fuel gas) requirements. The Chicago Fire Department continues to study adoption of hazardous occupancy-related requirements found in the International Fire Code.

Suggestions for future code changes should be submitted to DOBCommissioner@cityofchicago.org.

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