You may have heard that the City of Chicago made some updates to its building code this year. As property managers, it’s important to keep up with the updates and how they may affect our building. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The new code adopted many standards from the 2018 International Building Code, a move many architects and designers were rooting for. What this does is effectively take Chicago’s old and completely idiosyncratic 70 year old code and bring it up to a standard that many more operating professionals are already familiar with. This greatly simplifies both new construction and renovations of existing buildings.
  2. New building materials can be used more easily. Because Chicago’s code was so old, widely accepted modern building materials like glass needed special permits. Now, builders will be able to use these widely accepted materials without any additional paperwork.
  3. The code is reducing the minimum ceiling requirements in basement and attic spaces. This means that many more types of spaces can be considered livable units, thereby expanding the number of dwelling units available around the city.
  4. It makes home improvements and historical rehabs easier and more affordable. The new code allows more freedom to work with the building as it currently is, rather than focusing on necessarily following the letter of the law to a T. Some have described the new approach as “performative” compared to the old approach that was “prescriptive”.
  5. It requires sprinkler systems in new residential construction of four or more units. This will increase building costs, but will also be better for building safety.

When is all this going into effect? The city plans to gradually phase in the new code, so it can stay on top of any potential problems of implementation. The plan is to publish the new building code book in October 2019, and have the new regulations mandatory by August 2020.

If you’re a developer interested in these regulations, the city is running an invitation-only pilot program that will allow developers to use the new rules, so may want to check in with them.

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