The 2016 Edition of Title 24, the California Building Standards has become effective as of January 1, 2017. The codes are revised every three years and are in conjunction primarily with the Code Change Cycle for the International Family of Codes and other Standards.
Title 24 is made up of 12 parts:
Part 1 – California Administrative Code
Part 2 – California Building Codes, Volumes 1 and 2, based on the IBC
Part 2.5 – California Residential Code, based on the IRC
Part 3 – California Electrical Code, based on National Electrical Code
Part 4 – California Mechanical Code – Based on Uniform Mechanical Code
Part 5 – California Plumbing Code – Based on the Uniform Plumbing Code
Part 6 – California Energy Code
Part 7 – Vacant, Formerly Elevator Safety Code
Part 8 – California Historical Building Code
Part 9 – California Fire Code – Based on the IFC
Part 10 – California Existing Building Code – IEBC
Part 11 – California Green Building Standards (CALGreen)
Part 12 – California Referenced Standards
What is the process for revising the codes at the national level?
Remember that the code, for the most part is a consensus document, where the authors at the national level are made up of building and fire officials, representatives from industry and anyone else that is interested in the codes. Anyone can propose a change to the code. These changes are reviewed at national meetings. These meetings are sometimes long and boring. There is a selected committee that reviews all changes and votes on an action, which include approval as submitted, approval as amended, disapproval or further study. The committee’s actions are made public and open to review and comments. There is an opportunity to change the committee’s actions in a final hearing. Once through the final hearing, a new code is published.
What is the process for revising the codes at the State level?
Once the ICC publishes the revised code, the State of California then amends and re-amends towards conformance with what is required within the state. Many of the state amendments are driven by state legislative mandates, things that have been written into law by the legislators. Here is one of the problems with how the code is written, and how it gets revised.
Legislators seldom have the understanding of the building industry to write good code that can be usable by designers and builders, and enforceable by the building departments. Another difficulty is that laws stay on the books forever and are hard to change.
When these legislative mandates lack specific Building Standards, then responsibility for writing the code to reflect what is in a law falls under one of the State Agencies to write the actual code language. The State Fire Marshall has the authority for fire safety, Housing and Community Development (HCD) for Housing, and Division of the State Architect (DSA) for State building (schools) and requirements for disabled access. There are a number of other agencies that have specific authority for sections of the code. At last count there are over 20 agencies writing code in the State. Here lies another problem, too many chefs, all cooking their own meals. These are some of the reasons our State building codes are so cumbersome and complex.
So why do Californians end up with new code every three years?
One reason is that the code needs to evolve with changes in technology. Building technology changes, and the codes therefor need to change in kind.
Secondly, revisions to the code’s verbiage are implemented towards clarifying their meaning, in order to improve our understanding of the code’s intent.
Finally and most controversially, the International Code Council (ICC) – the people who write and publish the codes – is in the business of selling codes. It’s a business.