Chicago buildings

Chicago Could Get New Building Codes for First Time in 70 Years

  March 20, 2019

By Greg Zimmerman

With a goal of more environmentally responsible, safer, and cost-effective buildings, Chicago is proposing a new set of building codes for the first time in 70 years.

One major requirement of the new codes would be to require sprinkler systems in all new hotels, apartment buildings with four or more units, event spaces holding more than 300, and office buildings taller than 70 feet.

The new codes also will update energy-efficiency standards for new and existing buildings. “The updated code will promote energy efficiency and sustainability by making it easier to construct green buildings — ones that are durable, functional, and energy efficient,” says Judy Fryland, commissioner of the city’s Department of Buildings in a speech at the City Club of Chicago.

The new code also will streamline the building permitting process, making it quicker and more convenient. Chicago is the biggest city in the country for which architects can submit building plans for approval online.

For the first time, the new codes would adopt the International Building Code’s terminology and classification systems for construction types and building occupancies, allowing Chicago builders and architects to easily adhere to the city’s code requirements.

“The consistent language alone will save time and money,” Fryland says. “From the beginning of this monumental effort we’ve led a consensus-based approach and worked together with a wide variety of stakeholders to better align Chicago’s building code with model codes and standards. This accomplishment would not have been possible if not for the time and resources that were volunteered by so many within Chicago’s design, construction and development communities.”

Greg Zimmerman is executive editor of Building Operating Management. Read his cover story on how buildings are tackling climate change.


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