New State Code — 2016 Edition


Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp I CC – Certified Accessibility Inspector and Plan Examiner ICC – Certified Building Plan Examiner

On July 1st, the 2016 Edition of Title 24, the California Building Standards, was officially published. The effective date of this new code is January 1, 2017. The codes are revised every three years and are in conjunction primarily with the Code Change Cycle for the International Family of Codes and other Standards. Title 24 is made up of 12 parts:

Part 1 – California Administrative Code

Part 2 – California Building Codes, Volumes 1 and 2, based on the IBC

Part 2.5 – California Residential Code, based on the IRC

Part 3 – California Electrical Code, based on National Electrical Code

Part 4 – California Mechanical Code – Based on Uniform Mechanical Code

Part 5 – California Plumbing Code – Based on the Uniform Plumbing Code

Part 6 – California Energy Code

Part 7 – Vacant, Formerly Elevator Safety Code

Part 8 – California Historical Building Code

Part 9 – California Fire Code – Based on the IFC

Part 10 – California Existing Building Code – IEBC

Part 11 – California Green Building Standards (CALGreen)

Part 12 – California Referenced Standards

So why do we need or get a new code every three years? One reason is that the International Code Council (ICC), the people who write and publish the codes, is in the business of selling codes. It is a business. Second, the code needs to evolve with changes in technology as well as having a better understanding of what the intent of the code is. Remember that the code, for the most part is a consensus document, where the authors at the national level are made up of building and fire officials, representatives from industry and anyone else that is interested in the codes. Anyone can propose a change to the code. These changes are reviewed at national meetings. These meetings are sometimes long and boring. There is a selected committee that reviews all changes and votes on an action, which include approval as submitted, approval as amended, disapproval or further study. The committee’s actions are made public and open to review and comments. There is an opportunity to change the committee’s actions in a final hearing. Once through the final hearing, a new code is published.

The State of California then takes the national and amends (the heck out of it) to conform with what is required in the state. Much of the state amendments are driven by state legislative mandates, things that have been written into law by the legislators. Here is one of the problems for the code. Legislators seldom have the understanding of the building industry to write good code that can be usable by designers and builders, and enforceable by the building departments. In my opinion, legislators should not be writing codes. They should stay with intent, like making all buildings accessible, but stay away from specifics. One of the problems is that laws stay on the books forever and are hard to change. A good example of this is referenced in the 2010 Standards for Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It uses/references the 2000 edition of the IBC for means of egress. There have been many editions of the ICB since 2000 and means of egress has changed/evolved over the years.

When these legislative mandates lack specific Building Standards, then the responsibility for writing the code to reflect what is in a law falls under one of the State Agencies to write the actual code language. The State Fire Marshall has the authority for fire safety, Housing and Community Development (HCD) for Housing and Division of the State Architect (DSA) for State building (schools) and requirements for disable access. There are a number of other agencies that have specific authority for sections of the code. At last count there are over 20 agencies writing code in the State. Here lies another problem, too many chefs, which are cooking their own meals. These are some of the reasons our State Codes are so complex and big. Are we better off, are things that much safer in the State?

If you have a project in the works that will not be permitted until next year, you should be complying with the 2016 edition. To get your copy of the code, visit

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