Chicago City Council approves major building code modernization

April 15, 2019

On April 10, the Chicago City Council voted to adopt a major update to the Chicago Building Code that will better align the city's construction requirements with up-to-date model codes and national standards, according to Chicago is among the first major jurisdictions in the U.S. to adopt the 2018 International Building Code.

The new code represents the first comprehensive revisions to the building code in 70 years and will lead to more affordable construction in Chicago by expanding options to design and build with a wider range of materials and technologies. Although there have been changes to the Chicago Building Code in the past, the last comprehensive overhaul to the code was adopted in 1949. The new code update moves Chicago closer to national standards in several significant areas, including building planning, fire and life safety, enclosures and materials, structural, small residential and rehabilitation of existing buildings.

The code modernization ordinance is based on the latest editions of the International Building Code for new construction and the International Existing Building Code for rehabilitation of existing buildings. A significant part of revising the code involves adopting the common terminology and format used in other major U.S. jurisdictions, which will make it easier for all architects, designers and builders to understand Chicago's requirements. In addition, the code will be easier to keep up-to-date as national standards are changed.

"This week is an important milestone for the city of Chicago as they work to modernize their building code based on the International Codes, the most widely used and adopted set of building safety codes in the world," says International Code Council Senior Vice President of Government Relations Sara Yerkes. "This modernization advances building safety in the city, contributes to creating consistent codes across the state, and will help Chicago attract more business. We're proud to support the city of Chicago as it moves forward with this historic update."

In addition to further streamlining the permit process, the new code will add more flexibility and options for construction materials, which can lower the cost of new construction and building rehabs in Chicago. It also will promote greater use of green technologies and best practices for sustainable building design and construction.

The proposed changes will be phased in gradually, beginning June 1 and completely replacing the current building code by Aug. 1, 2020. During the implementation period, the Chicago Department of Buildings will continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition.

View more information regarding the rewritten code.