Creating a set of building plans in accordance with the International Building Code is not as easy as it sounds. Often, after the contractor submits the plans for the building permit, the local building department requests changes necessary to comply with the Code. These changes may be elementary and easily corrected, or they may require major changes, resulting in the delay of your project along with substantial contractor change orders before the job even begins. Here are a few hints to help create an IBC compliant design.

  1. Do not locate a building too close to another building or lot line. Failure to maintain minimum fire separation distances (IBC Table 602) will require fire ratings for exterior walls. These fire ratings may require expensive construction materials for exterior walls and windows, that are not required if the minimum separation distances are met.
  2. Include the existing structure in Height and Area requirements when proposing an addition. The Code requires that the total aggregate area of both the New and Existing portions of the building comply with the Height and Area requirements (IBC Table 503). If the plans only consider the addition area, expensive separation walls between the existing and new addition will be required to meet the Code.
  3. Include upgrades to Accessibility Features for existing structures. Most existing code deficiencies for existing structures are “Grandfathered in” and can remain, if they are not being altered. One exception is the Accessibility of a structure. Up to 20% of the proposed construction budget must be dedicated to upgrading non-compliant accessibility (IEBC Section 605).  If this requirement is missed, substantial and expensive design changes may be required for accessible toilet facilities, new elevators, etc.
  4. Do not propose membrane protection (2 sides) for building structural elements when individual protection (4 sides) is required. The Fire Rated Construction section of the Code (Chapter 7 of the IBC) lists the specific requirements of the three (3) main elements of fire resistance in buildings: Fire Walls, Fire Barriers, and Fire Partitions. Each element has specific requirements.
  5. Do not provide fire rating for Mixed Use Occupancy separation walls when it’s not required  Sometimes buildings need fire-rated interior walls to separate Uses.  However, many times, these Uses can be considered as Mixed Use Non-Separated, eliminating expensive and unnecessary interior wall fire ratings (IBC Section 508.3.2).

Carefully addressing potential Code deficiencies during the design process, especially before contractor bidding and permit submission, can help eliminate construction delays and contractor change orders. If you are designing a complex structure, it may be beneficial to engage a qualified Building Code Consultant to assist you during the design process. This consultant will help your design team prepare Building Plans that comply with the Building Code and receive faster Permit approval.