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Chicago Modernizes Its Building Code

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Under a new ordinance, the city of Chicago overhauled its building code this spring. While there have been prior revisions to the Chicago Building Code (CBC), this update is the most substantial in the last 70 years. This significant leap forward more closely aligns the CBC with model codes and standards used throughout the United States, utilizing the 2018 International Building Code as part of this update. The City of Chicago Council adopted its first code in 1875, four years after the Great Chicago Fire with the goal to reduce fire and disease.

A couple of major takeaways from the update:

• A wider range of building materials will be allowed for construction, including mass timber;

• New sprinkler system and seismic requirements will enhance safety;

• Cost-effective construction of single-family homes will be incentivized;

• The permitting process will be streamlined;

• Newer methods and approaches to construct green buildings will be allowed; and

• All zoning and fire districts remain the same as they were before the adoption of this code, including fire districts.

Currently, the new Energy Code takes effect along with the administrative provisions. An internal Department of Buildings training program for plan reviewers began this summer. Here are some key dates:

• October 2019 - the ICC Chicago Code book is expected to be published;

• December 2019, optional early election to request use of the new CBC; and

• August 2020, the new Chicago Building Code becomes mandatory.

Build With Strength is an NRMCA-led coalition that promotes concrete building systems through communications, project promotion, education and advocacy, and can help leverage codes and standards development to place more concrete. For more information, contact Tien Peng at or 206-913-8535.


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