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Pasadena Set To Adopt New Building Standards Code Which Includes Changes To Fire Code

Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | 5:45 am

California updates its building standards code every three years and this year has wrought significant changes to the fire and building code with the stated aim of making the golden state more energy efficient. 

“Although the new codes do include increases in building regulation, the changes are not hugely significant to discourage development,” said City public information officer Lisa Derderian. “The new codes should have a neutral effect on development and construction as property developers incorporate the new standards in their applications to the City.” 

The 2022 California Building Standards Code contains building, residential, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, energy and fire standards applicable to residential and non-residential buildings throughout California. 

Cities must implement the code starting January 1, 2023.

The code requires new homes and businesses to be “electric ready,” meaning that each house built in California will either have electrical circuits for all appliances or dedicated circuits and panels to easily convert from natural gas to electric.

The new code also requires emergency escape and rescue openings in one and two-family dwellings. It also increases the requirements for Electric Vehicle Capable, and Electric Vehicle Ready Charging parking spaces and infrastructure in new Multi-Family Dwellings, and new Non-Residential Buildings.

No more BBQs on Balconies?

According to Joe Morelli from Pasadena Fire Department, the new code — which also encompasses updates to the state’s Fire Code — provides new requirements for fire detection, protection within buildings with energy storage systems, and for homes in Fire Hazard Areas in the city. 

Some of these changes are the installation of an automatic smoke detection system in areas where occupants are not capable of responding to an emergency situation without physical assistance from the staff, installation of vehicle impact protection for Energy Storage Systems (ESS) in garages and exhaust ventilation for indoor installations of ESS. 

According to Morelli, the new code is very restrictive regarding BBQs on balconies, only allowing a small camping-size propane cylinder to be used.

However, he also said there is some room for flexibility on this. 

“The use of a standard size 20-pound propane cylinder, which we think is reasonable and the right thing to do for the community to allow people to BBQ on balconies without overly restrictive requirements.” 

Morelli encouraged all residents to hire qualified contractors and obtain permits so that the Fire Department can provide the benefits of quality fire plan review and inspection services to ensure any systems being installed align with the latest fire life safety protection requirements.

Increased Costs

The new regulations will bring higher construction costs. Just how much, is currently debatable.

According to Derderian, with the new regulations, “slight” increases in cost in the form of materials and associated labor costs should be expected.

She recommended that design professionals and contractors to familiarize themselves with the new code as early as now so their designs will encounter fewer corrections from building inspection and as result, they don’t have to redo plans. 

“[They] will have less change order costs to the business or home owners, and will complete construction more timely, ” she said. 

Lynelle Bryant, President of Masbuild Inc. an architecture, interiors and construction company in Pasadena, said that the new code might bring with it a 5 to 10 percent increase in costs and significant increases in time taken to get plans through the City departments for approval. 

“What it does for us is it adds in a layer of us needing to get current on the codes and how they’ve changed. So it would increase some of the time it takes for us to do the drawings because now we need to go back, and adjust our designs based on something that might have changed.”

Amendments Proposed 

Local jurisdictions may adopt the additional new codes or amend them to address issues of local importance, such as fire or earthquake hazards or a desire to seek increased energy efficiencies, but the changes cannot be less restrictive than otherwise mandated by the state. 

At the Public Safety Committee hearing on Wednesday, September 21, proposed local amendments to the state’s code will be discussed. 

As per city staff report, most of the proposed amendments have previously been adopted by the City Council and are proposed to be carried forward with the new code adoption.

All changes made to the building code will officially go into effect on January 1, 2023. The new code won’t affect new existing buildings unless they undergo renovation. 

Residents can access the meeting through:

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