April 10, 2019

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the citys Department of Buildings recently announced that they are making a comprehensive overhaul to local building codes, which was last done 70 years ago. City officials have reportedly been working with each other on the revamp for more than a year.

The new code, which featured Epsteins participation and technical expertise, will align more closely with national standards and provide more flexibility for new construction and building renovations.

Being a world-class city and attracting the talent and businesses that keep our economy growing requires that Chicago is at the top of national standards from the ground up, Mayor Emanuel said. We are modernizing our building code for the 21st Century to advance sustainability, make construction more cost-effective and continue our citys reputation for innovative design and world-renowned architecture.

According to the citys press release, the proposed new code will improve, enhance and spur new building projects of all sizes in neighborhoods throughout Chicago. It will further streamline the permitting process and add more flexibility and options for construction materials, while maintaining many of the unique life safety features of the existing Chicago Building Code. The city says this can bring down the cost of new construction and building rehabs in Chicago including single-family homes, affordable housing units, two- and three flat buildings or office space.

In being more closely aligned with model codes and national standards, the new code will promote greater use of green technologies and best practices for sustainable building design and construction, the release concludes.

Lori Chandler, AIA, Epsteins Senior Project Architect, was directly involved in the overhaul. Specifically, she was on the Fire/Life Safety technical working group for Phase 2. Phase 2 of the Code Modernization Effort by the city involved preparing recommendations on how to align the core construction, fire protection, renovation, and life safety provisions of the Municipal Code of Chicago with the International Building Code (IBC) and related model codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC).

We reviewed all of the language for our designated chapters of the working draft, evaluated the difference between that and the current Chicago Building Code, and made changes we thought necessary to best suit the needs in Chicago while still moving towards a more universally accepted model code, Lori said.

Epstein has long been viewed by the City as one of the local A/E code experts and, in fact, has been providing code review services to the Department of Buildings since 2014 as part of their Direct Developer Services program. In addition, Epsteins place as one of the leading industrial architects in the country meant that we were well-suited to helping the City with how to handle the different types of hazardous materials with the IBC and ICC building codes, areas that Lori has had extensive experience with in her 11-years with Epstein.

The code is planned to be phased in gradually beginning June 1, 2019, with complete replacement of the current code by Aug. 1, 2020.