New Commercial Building Codes, Compliance For 2020

Posted On: January 28th, 2020

With the dawn of a new year comes several new different building codes, that you will need to keep in mind. What are these changes, and how will they affect you as you run your business? Here’s what you need to know.


California and Fire Safety

Right now, fire safety is very much on the mind of every Californian. After the devastating wildfires that swept through Paradise last year. It burned down thousands of Paradise homes, leaving people homeless. It also caused serious damage to nearby wildlife and forests, the scope of which is not yet entirely known.

As a result of this, many changes in law have been brought about to help combat the damage the fires caused. For example, power companies such as PG&E are being compelled to look into fire safety measures and put money into fire relief funds. Cell phone companies are being required to improve backup power for cell towers, so residents still have cell coverage during blackouts.

As a business, you’ll expect to see changes to building codes too, as the new year starts. There were homes in Paradise that were saved from the wildfires thanks to their construction. This was because homes built after 2008 were subject to stringent fire safety codes. This included requiring fire proof roofing, siding, and other materials when constructing new homes.

Will this be kept in mind when changing building codes for commercial businesses this year?


Commercial Building Codes and Changes

The biggest change to be aware of is the changes to construction materials required, when creating new commercial buildings. In the past, when insulation was installed it was required to be fire safe.

Now though, below grade plastic foam insulation, without flame retardants, is able to be used. If this style of insulation is to be used in building, it is required to be labeled thoroughly.

  • Each board should be labeled on each face every 8 square feet in ½ inch red text with the phrase, ‘WARNING – FIRE HAZARD’. It must also be labeled as not tested for flame spread or smoke development.
  • Every package should be labeled on at least two sides, in ½ inch red text, with the phrase ‘WARNING – COMBUSTIBLE MATERIAL’

If foam plastic insulation is used, there are restrictions on where it can be placed. It must be placed under a minimum of of 3.5 inch concrete slab on grade. It is not designed for vertical or above grade applications. When the product is packaged, it must be kept at least 30 feet away from buildings currently under construction.

Foam plastic insulation and foam plastic cores will be required to have a flame spread index of no more than 75, and smoke development index of no more than 450 when tested at maximum thickness when intended for use in accordance with ASTM E84 or UL 723. However, these maximums don’t apply to foam plastic installed beneath a minimum of 3.5 inch concrete, at a maximum thickness of 2 inches.


How This Affects Your Business

If you’re constructing new commercial buildings this year, you will be required to comply with these new changes in commercial building codes. At first, the changes do seem to be counter to the current push for fire safety. If you’re using below grade insulation, does that mean you’re putting your commercial grade buildings at risk of fire?

Examining how this insulation can be used, this doesn’t appear to be the case. The insulation can only be used under concrete slab on grade, and cannot be used on vertical or above grade. As it’s under concrete, it appears to be at less risk of fire, so it has been deemed safe for the insulation to be used there. For other applications, insulation that has been treated to be fire retardant will have to be used.

You’ll also need to remember that are many others ways that a building will need to be up to fire code. For example, you’ll need to install the correct amount of fire exit doors, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and so on. Fire doors will need to be installed to halt the progress of fire. You’ll also see that other items installed will need to be up to code, such as lighting, in order to prevent fires.

Access for fire departments is important, too. If a fire were to occur, you need to make it simple for the team to access your property. Ensure that the address is visible from the street, and is easily approached without restriction.

Fire departments need safe and immediate access, so many properties are now being built with lock boxes that contain master keys, so they can get in right away. If you’re up to date on all of these codes, and pass inspections for fire code safety, then your commercial building will be safe as can be against fire.


Other Changes to Be Aware Of

Of course, it’s not just fire safety you need to be aware of changing with commercial building codes. There are other changes you need to know about too. Here’s what you need to know:

2019 California Access Compliance Advisory Reference Manual

This manual has been updated for 2020, and can be found here. It covers the changes that have been made in building codes, including fire code, green building codes, and more. It’s something you’ll need to download and be familiar with when starting on new projects this year.

New Architecture Licensure Handbook

This new and updated handbook covers everything about architecture, from becoming an architect and the common paths into the profession, to giving access to other architecture resources such as the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. This manual can be found here.

Now you know the major building code changes that are taking place in California this year. If you follow all building codes, keeping your building safe from fire and allowing access to the fire department should the worst happen, you’ll be covered from the worst fire can bring.


Posted in:

Comments are closed here.