Chicago’s New Construction Code Begins Implementation

Chicago’s New Construction Code Begins Implementation

On April 10, 2019, the Chicago City Council approved the first major update to the city’s building code in 70 years. These code updates represent a comprehensive overhaul of Chicago’s construction practices, bringing the city squarely into the 21st century. Starting this week (June 1st), these new code updates begin to do into effect. The entire new Building Code will replace the existing one by August 1, 2020.

The new code updates are largely modeled after the most recent versions of the International Building Code for new construction and the International Existing Building Code for rehabs of existing buildings. What does this mean? Let’s take a look:

The Chicago Building Code update is designed to bring the city’s construction requirements into the modern era.

One of the major elements of this code update is the change the language describing new construction, as well as rehabs, to conform with nationwide standards. These updates make it easier for architects, contractors, and developers to relate Chicago’s building code to others across the country. The substantive changes also better align the city’s construction requirements with modern national standards around building planning, fire safety, building materials, and sustainability practices, including green technologies.

These updates will make new construction and rehabs more affordable, sustainable, and innovative.

In practical terms, these updates will actually make construction in Chicago more affordable by expanding options for design, building materials, and new technologies. They will bring down costs associated with both new construction and rehabs of single family homes, affordable housing units, and condos. The new code adopts what is called “risk-based structural design requirements,” which means that single family homes won’t need to meet the same requirements as 15-story commercial buildings. By using updated language and including a wider variety of options for building materials and green technologies, the code will also incentivize greater sustainability practices.

As a property owner in the City of Chicago, you will notice a difference.

Whether you are a homeowner, real estate investor, or wholesaler, you will likely notice a difference as a result of the new building code. In addition to the changing priorities mentioned above, the code includes provisions to ease construction requirements for things like adapting basements and attics into livable spaces. It also creates more flexibility for rehab projects, incentivizing updates to existing structures over new construction. Finally, the new code also streamlines the permit process, without increasing any permit fees.

Highlights from then Mayor Emanuel’s news release Announcing City Council Approval of Major Building Code Modernization to Enable Safer, More Affordable, Sustainable and Innovative Construction on what the rewritten code will include are:

  • Adopt specific, up-to-date requirements for a wide range of building materials such as walls, roofs and other construction that will provide guidelines and standards that are lacking in Chicago’s existing code.

  • Enhance safety by requiring sprinkler systems in new construction including hotels, most apartment buildings with 4+ units, places of assembly with 300+ occupants and new office buildings greater than 70 feet tall.

  • Encourage new development by allowing buildings with sprinkler systems to have greater height, number of stories, and floor area per construction type.

  • Allow for more cost-effective construction of single-family homes by adopting risk-based structural design requirements so that a 2-story single-family home will not need to meet the same structural requirements as a 15-story hospital.

  • Create greater opportunities for conversion of existing basements and attics as livable space without costly structural alterations by reducing minimum ceiling heights, as well as providing more options to meet light and ventilation requirements.

  • Encourage preservation of Chicago’s existing building stock, including historic buildings, by providing additional flexibility and options for rehab work. This will bring down the cost of projects like the adaptive re-use of schools, retail buildings, and vacant buildings throughout the city.

  • Promote energy efficiency and sustainability by making it easier to construct green buildings – ones that are durable, functional and energy efficient.

  • Enhance public safety in the event of a natural disaster by adopting seismic design requirements for critical facilities such as hospitals and fire stations and some taller buildings.

  • Adopt the International Building Code’s widely used terminology and classification systems for building occupancies and construction types, making it easier for architects and builders to follow and meet Chicago’s code requirements.

Did you have any rehab or new construction projects in mind for 2019? If so, make sure you know how the new Building Code will impact you. Parts of the new code are going into effect this week and will continue to roll out over the coming year. Make sure you are kept in the loop so that you are able to get the most out of your real estate investments. Give Enterprise Esquire a call to discuss how these new building codes could impact you. Click here to jump on our calendar.

If you would like to learn more about the Chicago Building Code updates, click here for a list of helpful resources.

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