The Willdan Letter

Quarterly News for California Building Departments

Read Current Issue

Subscribe here to receive email notification when the current quarter's newsletter is posted.


Did You Know"Did You Know?"
Previous newsletter topics

To display topics, click on each heading or Click:
open all Open All | close all Close All


Tiny Houses on Wheels (Issue #48, Oct - Dec 2015)

Did you know there are standards applicable to tiny houses on wheels? And that their use may be restricted? It may be difficult to determine which standard applies and how a so-called tiny house may be installed for human occupancy.

"Tiny House Giant Journey in the Petrified Forest and an RV" by Guillaume Dutilh - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

Tiny houses on wheels have suddenly become the subject of magazine articles and cable television programs. We are to understand that the tiny house movement is something new. Truly it is not, and the popularity of trailers has come and gone before. Most tiny houses currently marketed have a transportation system including a hitch, tow bar, chassis and wheels. Following World War II, the use of trailers became in many regions a solution to the need for inexpensive housing. For many they were home while attending college on the G.I. bill. Over time small towable trailers evolved into Mobilehomes and later Manufactured Homes and Factory-Built Housing while those that remained towable with a motor vehicle are now forms of Recreational Vehicles.

So what is a tiny house and how can it be used? Well, that depends on its size and how it is equipped. We must look beyond the stylish architecture. California law establishes definitions that define various forms of housing. Most all housing is subject to regulations or building standards adopted by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The determination as to the applicable standard can only be made by applying the definitions in state law.

First let's look at those towable behind a standard motor vehicle. Health and Safety Code (HSC) Section 18010 defines a recreational vehicle, which in short is a unit with or without motive power (motorhome, travel trailer, 5-wheel trailer), of less than 320 square feet excluding cabinetry, closets and the bathroom, and no more than 400 sq.ft. of gross area at maximum horizontal projection, that all can be moved as a single unit on the highways without a permit.

A Park Trailer is a recreational vehicle, specifically defined in HSC Section 18009.3, as a unit with up to 400 s.f. excluding any loft space and attached porches, and may be up to 14 feet wide needing a permit for highway movement. HSC Section 18033 provides specific standards for a Park Trailer loft, including design loads, stair rise and run, hand and guard rails. Park Trailers are subject to the ANSI Standard A119.5, and all other recreational vehicles are subject to ANSI Standard A1192, to which compliance is to be self-certified by the manufacturer.

There is no law in California providing for the installation of a recreational vehicle as an improvement to underlying real property. Recreational vehicles are to be installed in Special Occupancy Parks (see HSC Division 13, Part 2.3), commonly called recreational vehicle parks, or as may be allow by local zoning. For a recreational vehicle to be installed as a real property improvement, the local agency having jurisdiction would need to accept the unit as meeting the applicable building standards in Title 24, California Code of Regulations, adopted by HCD pursuit to the State Housing Law in HSC, Division 13, Part 1.5, beginning with Section 17910.

If the tiny house does not fit the definition of a recreational vehicle, then it may be a manufactured home as defined in HSC Section 18007, or a Factory-Built Housing as defined in HSC Section 19971. Manufactured homes are subject to federal standards and must bear a label attesting to compliance with standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Factory-Built Housing must bear an insignia attesting to compliance with the building standards in Title 24, and supportive regulations in Title 25, California Code of Regulations, adopted by HCD. A manufactured home may be installed within a mobilehome park, or as with factory-built housing it may be installed on a foundation system as an improvement to underlying real property. The manufactured home must have a permanent chassis so it will come down the road on wheels just like a recreational vehicle. Factory-built Housing may or may not have wheels for transportation.

All these forms of housing can be made to look attractive and like conventionally built on-site housing. When a tiny house is proposed for installation and use, the local planning and building departments will need to make a determination as to the lawful means of installation and occupancy. First, determine what it is, then apply the state laws addressing the allowable installation for that type of housing form. Look to local land use ordinances, too

HCD has a booklet available on their website that provides clarification as to the differences between manufactured homes and park trailers.

Historical Building Safety Board (Issue #47, Jul - Sep 2015)

Did you know there is a State Historical Building Safety Board? It is true, and this seldom-heard-of Board has authority to adopt building standards. State law in Health and Safety Code Sections 18950 through 18961, known as the State Historic Building Code, originally enacted in 1975, establishes this Board to exist within the Division of the State Architect. There are 21 members of this Board, including some familiar state agencies such as the Division of the State Architect, Department of Housing and Community Development, State Fire Marshal and other agencies. Other members include organizations such as the California Preservation Foundation, CALBO, and League of California Cities.

First Christian Church of Rialto The intended purpose of the State Historic Building Code is to establish an alternative code to facilitate the preservation of the historical value of qualified historical buildings while providing reasonable safety from fire, seismic forces and other hazards, and to provide reasonable access to people with disabilities.

The Board has authority to propose building standards to apply to designated historical buildings for approval by the Building Standards Commission, as does the Department of Housing and Community Development, State Fire Marshal and Division of the State Architect for historical buildings within their code jurisdiction. The standards are published in Part 8, known as the California Historical Building Code, of the 2013 edition of Title 24, California Code of Regulations. Part 8 is provided in the binder with Volume 2 of the California Building Code and Part 10, the California Existing Building Code.

The building department of every city or county is responsible for the enforcement of Part 8 and for permitting repairs, alterations, and additions necessary for the preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, safety, moving, or continued use of a qualified historical building. Just like with other building standards, local government may make amendments to the requirements in the California Historical Building Code that are reasonably necessary because of local climatic, geological, seismic, and topographical conditions. The local agency shall make an express finding that the amendments are needed, and the finding shall be in the public record. A copy of the finding and amendment shall be filed with the State Historical Building Safety Board and is not effective or operative until the finding and amendment is filed with the board.

To learn more about codes for historical buildings, including how a building is designated as a historical building, see the state law in the Health and Safety Code known as the State Historic Building Code, and the building standards in Part 8 of California Code of Regulations, Title 24, known as the California Historical Building Code; be sure to read Chapter 8-6 of Part 8 regarding accessibility requirements in Historic Buildings.

Supplements and Errata (Issue #46. Apr - Jun 2015)

Did you know an Errata supersedes a Supplement on the same code provision? Well, of course that is true, but there is more to understand.

First, a Title 24 Supplement is a document providing new, amended, or repealed building standards resulting from a recent rulemaking adoption by the California Building Standards Commission. Supplements are printed on blue colored paper and come with instructions on the cover sheet as to the existing Title 24 pages to be removed, and new blue pages to be inserted. When building standards are repealed, sometimes several impacted pages may need to be reprinted.

An Errata is a correction of an error discovered on existing Title 24 pages, often just a printing error, and does not provide new, amended or repealed building standards. Errata are printed on buff colored paper and come with instructions on the cover page. Like Supplements, the instructions identify existing Title 24 pages to be removed and how to insert the Errata pages.

Title 24 coverAn important feature on both Supplements and Errata is the history page. It provides important information, such as the effective date of the Title 24 provisions. However, recently something odd occurred.

Following the completion of the 2013 Intervening Code Adoption Cycle by the California Building Standards Commission, several Supplements were issued for insertion into the various Parts of Title 24, California Code of Regulations. The Supplements provided the adopted new, amended, or repealed building standards, to be effective on July 1, 2015. Errors in some Supplement pages resulted in the issuance of Errata.

Unfortunately, some of the Errata did not include a history page listing the effective date. As a result, some may mistakenly think the effective date of the Errata provisions is the date of issuance on the Errata cover page. An Errata provision is replacing Supplement provisions that will not be effective until July 1, 2015. Certainly, the Errata cannot be effective before the Supplement provisions being replaced. Thus, the Errata provisions also become effective on July 1, 2015.

Finding Legislative Information (Issue #45, Jan - Mar 2015)
CA state legislature Bill Info

Did you know there are now two means for accessing California legislative bill information online? Oddly, it is true, and each has desirable features, but no one site has all the features. We are not able to explain why the legislature maintains two separate websites, but we can explain some of the very useful features of each.

  • One Legislative website provides a means to access current and past bills by the bill number or author, allows users to read or print bills, and check the status and history of a bill to determine where it is in the legislative process.
    • The Table of Sections Affected is only available on this site. It is very helpful when searching for bills. The table lists every section of state law affected by a legislative bill. For example, if you are interested in any bill proposing changes to the California Building Standards Law, which is Health and Safety Code, Division 13, Part 2.5, with Sections 18901 through 18949.31, scroll through the Table of Affected Sections, and any bill affecting the California Building Standards Law sections will be listed. Use of the Table of Sections Affected was discussed in The Willdan Letter #31 in 2011.

    leginfo
  • The second Legislative website provides access to legislation and the state laws. You may do all the things like searching, reading, checking the status and history of a bill just like with the previously discussed website, except for the Table of Sections Affected.
    • In addition, this fairly new site has one feature only available here that is very useful: it allows you to view a bill with the proposed changes to existing law illustrated. This may be the best way to quickly determine what is being proposed. Plus, it is updated with each amendment to a bill.

Mark both websites as favorites and use them during the 2015/2016 session of the California legislature. Maybe someday the features will be blended into one site.

How do emergency building standards go into effect? (Issue #44, Oct - Dec 2014)

Did you know that emergency building standards become effective immediately? Basically that is true, but there is more to understand.

Emergency building standards for publication in the 13 Parts of the California Building Standards Code, which is Title 24 within the California Code of Regulations, become effective when approved by the California Building Standards Commission and filed with the Secretary of State. The two acts may be a day or more apart. So the effective date is the date recorded by the Secretary of State.

The adoption of emergency building standards is not a common event. That is because the standard for a proposed emergency building standards established in Government Code Section 11346.1 is very restrictive. There must be an emergency as defined in Section 11346.1. Still, there were three adoptions of Title 24 building standards by emergency during 2014: two by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and the third by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

solar panels

Example: SFM emergency building standard was related to solar panels fire classification. Photo: OSFM

To use the SFM proposals as an example, the proposals were presented to the California Building Standards Commission at a public meeting on April 22, 2014; the SFM was required to show to the satis­fac­tion of the Commission that a true emer­gency situation existed. In this case the Commission approved the proposals and the emergency building standards became effective the next day, April 23, 2014, when filed with the Secretary of State.

Here is the process for emergency adoptions as established in state law:

  • The state agency must provide a 5-day Notice to the public advising of the proposed adoption of an emergency building standard.
  • The proposal is considered by the Commission at a meeting open to the public. The proposal is subject to public input.
  • If approved by the Commission, the Commission's staff files the approved emergency building standard with the Secretary of State. The building standards will remain in effect and enforceable for up to 180 days, and may be considered temporary.
  • Within the next 180 days, the state agency must complete the rulemaking process with a Noticed 45-day public comment period. Otherwise, the adopted emergency building standards expire after 180 days.
  • Before the expiration of the 180-day period, the state agency must bring the matter back before the Commission for a final adoption to make the building standards a published provision within Title 24. The final emergency building standards language often includes amendments to address public comment and the agency's experience with the temporary building standard adopted previously by emergency action.
  • If approved by the Commission, the Commission's staff files the approved final emergency building standards with the Secretary of State, which makes the adoption effective and enforceable.
  • The Commission directs the publication of the adopted building standard as a Supplement on blue pages for insertion into Title 24.

The primary difference between adoptions by emergency from that of the regular non-emergency process is that with emergency actions the building standards become effective and enforceable prior to the normal 45-day public comment period.

Recently, the Commission issued Information Bulletin # 14-06, dated September 19, 2014, advising that a Supplement with the approved emergency building standards that became effective and enforceable on July 23, 2014, will be available in January 2015. The bulletin provides the building standards adopted by emergency action. These emergency building standards will be included in the Supplements issued with the adoptions made during the 2013 Intervening Code Adoption Cycle. Find this important bulletin at the Commission's website.

CBSC Can Create Building Standards (#43, Jul - Sep 2014)

Did you know the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has authority to create building standards? It is commonly understood that the CBSC has authority to adopt and publish building standards developed by state agencies such as the Division of the State Fire Marshal, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of the State Architect, and others. You may not be aware that state law requires the CBSC to create building standards on its own for various applications. The published building standards within Title 24, California Code of Regulations that were created by the CBSC, and model code provisions adopted by the CBSC, are identified in the matrix adoption tables under the BSC acronym. Here is a brief listing of the standards required to be adopted by the CBSC.

  • Standards for state buildings, including buildings of the California State University and University of California, for systems and features not covered by standards adopted by other state agency, such as DSA, CEC and SFM.
  • Standards for lighting for parking lots and primary campus walkways at the University of California, California State Universities and California Community Colleges.
  • Building seismic retrofit standards and seismic strengthening standards for specific buildings specified in Appendix Chapter A1 of Part 10 of Title 24, California Existing Building Code.
  • Standards for building occupancies, or building features, such as the structural system, plumbing system, and other features, systems, equipment and devices, that are not subject to adoptions by any other state agency.
  • Green building standards for buildings not specifically subject to green building standards adopted by other state agencies with such authority.
  • Standards for public restroom facilities at all state-owned or state-occupied facilities where the public congregates, when no other state agency has the authority to do so.

In recent years, the legislature has expanded the CBSC responsibility to create building standards.

  • Health and Safety Code Section 18941.10 enacted by Assembly Bill No. 1092 (Chapter 410, Statutes of 2013) requires the CBSC to adopt mandatory standards in the 2016 triennial edition of the Title 24 for the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure for parking spaces in nonresidential developments.
  • Health and Safety Code 18934.9, enacted by AB 2030 (Chapter 370 of the 2012 Statutes) requires the CBSC to create building standards in the 2016 edition of Title 24 that require press boxes to be located on a route that is accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Health and Safety Code Section 18941.9, enacted by AB 296 (Chapter 667 of the 2012 Statutes) requires the CBSC to consider incorporating a cool pavement standard to be developed by the Department of Transportation into Part 11 of Title 24, the California Green Building Standards Code.
  • If either Senate Bill 1350 or 1358 is passed this year as currently written the CBSC will be required to create building standards in the 2016 edition of Title 24, for the mandatory installation of baby diaper changing accommodations in newly constructed or renovated restroom facilities in places of public accommodation.

    There are other examples, but the point is that we need to be aware of what seems to be an ever increasing application of the BSC adoptions in Title 24. Application and scope information is provided in Section 1.2 of the Chapter 1, California Building Code, (Part 2, Title 24, California Code of Regulations). There is similar application and scope information in the other Parts of Title 24.

    Some State Agencies Can Hold Separate Public Hearings on Building Standards (#42, Apr - Jun 2014)

    public hearingDid you know that some state agencies can hold public hearings regarding proposed building standards separate from the hearings conducted by the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC)? It is true, and the reason is found in state law.

    The California Building Standards Law in Division 13, Part 2.5, of the Health and Safety Code, establishes two types of state agencies for the purpose of creating building standards. The first type is known as a state proposing agency. State proposing agencies are authorized by various state laws to develop proposed building standards for presentation to the CBSC. The CBSC conducts the public hearings and performs the adoption and publication of those building standards developed by the state proposing agencies. The Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Division of the State Architect and Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development are among those state agencies that are classified as state proposing agencies.

    The second type is the state adopting agency. The state adopting agencies have authority in state law to develop proposed building standards, conduct their own public hearings, and adopt their proposed building standards. The adopted building standards must be presented to the CBSC for approval and publication in Title 24. However, the CBSC's authority in the case of building standards adopted by a state adopting agency is limited to verifying compliance with provisions of the California Building Standards Law, with references to requirements in the Administrative Procedures Act of the California Government Code that govern the process for adoption of building standards and assure public participation. The CBSC publishes those building standards adopted by the state adopting agencies that have been approved by the CBSC as meeting all requirements of the adoption process.

    Examples of state adopting agencies include the California Energy Commission, State Historical Building Safety Board, Board of State and Community Corrections and Department of Food and Agriculture. Again, these agencies conduct public hearings on proposed building standards separate from the hearings conducted by the CBSC. When you see the CBSC hearing agenda listing a building standard by a state adoption agency, such as the California Energy Commission, the building standards have been adopted by the state adopting agency and are before the CBSC for approval of the process, not the merits of the building standards.

    In summary, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations contains building standards proposed by the state proposing agencies and adopted by the CBSC, and building standards adopted by the state adopting agencies and approved by the CBSC.

    A Building Department May Charge for Consultation (#41, Jan - Mar 2014)

    buildingDid you know state law allows a local building department to charge an hourly fee for consultation with a permit applicant, or member of the public, regarding accessibility requirements in a place of public accommodation? The authority is provided in California Civil Code Section 55.53 (d)(2), enacted by SB 1608 in 2008 (Chapter 549). A place of public accommodation is defined in federal and state law, but Section 202 of the 2013 California Building Code is the most expansive. A place of public accommodation includes almost every building use except for covered multifamily dwellings.

    CC55.53 also requires a local building department to employ or retain CASp inspectors to perform plan checking and inspections of construction for access compliance. The requirement began in 2010 requiring each agency to employ at least one CASp inspector. As of January 1, 2014, the requirement is for a building department to employ a "sufficient number of building inspectors" who hold the CASp certification. If you have not read CC55.53 recently, here is the part that becomes operative with the new year:

    Commencing January 1, 2014, a local agency shall employ or retain a sufficient number of building inspectors who are certified access specialists to conduct permitting and plan check services to review for compliance with state construction-related accessibility standards by a place of public accommodation with respect to new construction, including, but not limited to, projects relating to tenant improvements that may impact access. If a local agency employs or retains two or more certified access specialists to comply with this subdivision, at least one-half of the certified access specialists shall be building inspectors who are certified access specialists.

    CC 55.53 also authorizes local government to establish fees necessary to carry out the requirements:

    A local government may additionally charge or increase permittingDid You Know, plan check, or inspection fees to the extent necessary to offset the costs of complying with this subdivision. Any revenues generated from an hourly or other charge or fee increase under this subdivision shall be used solely to offset the costs incurred to comply with this subdivision.

    Water-Saving Plumbing Fixtures Required (#40, Oct - Dec 2013)

    water-saving fixturesDid you know that noncompliant plumbing fixtures will be subject to replacement soon?

    Beginning on January 1, 2014, when a permit is issued for the alteration or improvement to a single-family dwelling, noncompliant plumbing fixtures must be replaced with water-conserving fixtures as a condition of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, or final approval. The responsibility is that of the permit holder, regardless of the type of alteration or improvement being made to the dwelling. This requirement is to be enforced by the local building department and can be found in Civil Code Section 1101.4.

    Also on and after January 1, 2014, noncompliant plumbing fixtures must be replaced with water-conserving fixtures in multifamily residential real property and commercial real property, when a permit is issued and the result is an increase in floor area of 10% or greater, or when the construction valuation is greater than $150,000, or when a room is to be altered or improved and the room has noncompliant plumbing fixtures. The installation of the water-conserving plumbing fixtures is to be a condition of the issuance of the certificate of occupancy or final approval. This requirement of law must be enforced by the local building department. See our discussion about SB 745 in our legislative section.

    There are a number of conditions and exemptions provided, so read Civil Code Sections 1101.2 through 1101.8 for all the details at the legislative website. You will notice that there are additional requirements coming in 2017 and 2019. Again, read SB 745 which is discussed briefly in our Legislative section.

    Garage Door Safety (#39, July - Sept 2013)

    garage doorDid you know a building department may be awarded civil penalties for violations of the state laws regarding automatic garage door openers? It is true! Health and Safety Code Section 19891 allows a local building department bringing a civil action for violations of Health and Safety Code Sections 19890, to be awarded civil penalties to offset the cost of bringing the action. These two sections of law are referenced in Section R309.4, of the 2010 California Residential Code in Part 2.5 of Title 24, California Code of Regulations.

    The civil penalties provision was part of a legislative effort to reduce deaths and injuries caused by automatic garage door openers. The civil penalties may be either $500 or $1,000 per violation, depending on the violation of HSC Section 19890. Interesting provisions of Section 19890 are:

    • It is unlawful to manufacture, sell or install a residential automatic garage door opener that does not have an automatic reverse safety device that complies with the specified ANSI/UL standard. The required devise must cause a closing garage door to open when the door path is interrupted, or when the device is disabled.
    • Each sold or installed residential automatic garage door opener shall include a set of installation, operation, maintenance, and testing instructions.
    • No replacement residential garage door shall be installed in a manner that connects the replacement door to an existing residential automatic garage door opener that does not meet the requirements of this HSC section.
    • Any person hired to service or repair any residential automatic garage door opener shall, upon completion of the service or repair, if any, determine whether the door reverses upon contact with a rigid two-inch -high obstacle placed on the surface beneath the garage door. If the residential automatic garage door opener does not pass the test, the hired person shall complete and conspicuously affix to the residential automatic garage door opener, a red certificate with a warning as specified in this HSC section.
    • Garage door openers manufactured for commercial purposes are subject to all the same requirements of this HSC section when installed for residential use.

    There is more, so read HSC Sections 19890 and 19891 for all the detail: from the legislative codes page, select Health and Safety Code, then select Division 13, then select Sections 19890-1.

    Appeals to the Commission (#38, Apr - June 2013)

    Did you know the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has authority to administer appeals regarding the application of the California Building Standards Code, in Title 24, California Code of Regulations? An appeal process is established in Health and Safety Code (HSC) Sections 18945 through 18949, with implementing regulations by the CBSC in Title 24, Part 1, Chapter 1, commencing with Section 1-301.

    The CBSC may receive an appeal regarding the application of Title 24 by a state agency, or when the ruling is by a local enforcement agency such as a building department and both the adversely affected party and the local enforcement agency appeal jointly to the CBSC for resolution. However, in the latter case, the subject of the appeal must have statewide significance.

    The referenced regulations by the CBSC have established that an appeal must be written and include information necessary to administer the appeal. A $450 filing fee is required in order to cover the CBSC’s cost of administering an appeal and rendering a decision. Additional charges may be assessed if the CBSC incurs costs not covered by the initial filing fee. The CBSC is not authorized in law to enforce any decision reached on an appeal. The decision becomes merely advisory.

    Read all the details of the cited HSC sections at the California Law website. The referenced CBSC regulations are in Title 24, Part 1.

    Required Building Plan Retention (#37, Jan - Mar 2013)

    plans rolledDid you know the building department is required to maintain a copy of the plans for every building — for the life of the building? It is true, with a few exceptions. The requirements and exemptions are found in Health and Safety Code Sections 19850 through 19853.

    The law allows the use of microfilm or other photographic means in place of the original plans on paper. It exempts the plans for farm or ranch buildings; buildings including a bank, financial institution, or public utility; and single or multiple dwellings of not more than two stories and a basement, or a garage or other structure that is an accessory to such a single or multiple dwelling, and any one-story building with no span exceeding 25 feet unless such building is of steel frame or concrete.

    HSC Section 19851 provides that the plans required to be maintained on file by the building department shall be a public record available for public inspection on the premises of the building department. This section establishes how the building department must administer the process of receiving a request to duplicate a plan and obtain written permission from the design professional and building owner prior to allowing duplication. The building department must provide a form to collect information from the person requesting plan duplication. The form must disclose specified information and provide for an affidavit stipulating that the copied plan will be used for the maintenance, operation, and use of the building. Fees may be established to recover the cost of plan storage and for the duplication of plans.

    Read all the details of the cited HSC sections at the California Law website.

    Preconstruction Conference Requirements (#36, Oct - Dec 2012)

    conference building plansDid you know a local building department may require a preconstruction conference prior to completing review of construction plans and specifications?

    Additionally, a preconstruction conference may be a condition of issuing the permit to construct. The authority for a building department to impose these requirements is found in Health and Safety Code Section 19872.
    The referenced state law states the purpose of a preconstruction conference is to review the plans to ensure consistency of building code interpretation and adequacy of the plans. The state law also authorizes the building department to require the permittee to maintain at the construction site a set of plans and specifications that reflects any understandings and agreements derived from the preconstruction conference.

    Nearby Health and Safety Code Section 19870 sets the parameters for requiring compliance with new or amended building standards for a project based on inspection findings. In most cases, however, the plans and construction must be governed by current building standards.

    Health and Safety Code Section 18938.5 establishes that only the "building standards approved by the commission, and that are effective at the local level at the time an application for a building permit is submitted, shall apply to the plans and specifications for, and to the construction performed under, that building permit."

    Contract Plan Examiners Required if "Excessive Delay" (#35, Jul - Sept 2012)

    Did you know there is state law requiring the use of contract plan examiners? It is true under specified conditions. There are two state laws to be aware of.

    The first is Health and Safety Code Section 17960.1(d) that requires a local building department to use private entities or persons to perform plan checking when there is an excessive delay in plan checking. This law is from a portion of the Health and Safety Code known as the State Housing Law. So, the requirements of Section 17960.1 apply to residential occupancies only, including hotels, motels, apartments, lodginghouses, condominiums, and dwellings. An excessive delay is defined as being 30 or more days for plan checking a complete set of plans and specifications when submitted to a local building department.

    The second law is in Health and Safety Code Section 19837, which is from a portion of the Health and Safety Code regarding local government permits for construction. This law allows a local building department to contract for plan checking services when an excessive delay in plan checking exists. Section 18937 applies to all occupancies other than residential occupancies. It does not however, define “excessive delay”.

    In both laws, it is left to the permit applicant who has submitted a complete set of plans and specifications to request plan checking by a contract entity when an excessive delay exists.

    To read these laws and learn all the details, find the Health and Safety Code at the California Law website.

    Why are there 15-day and 45-day comment periods? (#34, Apr - June 2012)

    Did you know why there are 15-day and 45-day public comment periods during a Code Adoption Cycle administered by the Building Standards Commission? In the recent code adoption cycle there were both 15-day and 45-day comment periods. What is the difference?

    The answer is found in state law. There are two bodies of state law that govern the process of adopting building standards for publication in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations. First is the California Building Standards Law in Health and Safety Code, Division 13, Part 2.5, commencing with Section 18901. The other is known as the Administrative Procedures Act in Government Code, Title 1, Division 3, Part 1, Chapter 3.5, commencing with Section 11340. These laws require the state agencies to provide the public notice of proposed building standards, and allow the public an opportunity to participate.

    When a new proposal is made, the public comment period must be at least 45 days in length. The notice to the public is published in the California Regulatory Notice Register, which may be viewed at the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) website http://www.oal.ca.gov. The proposing agency must also notify persons and entities that have been listed in the agency's records as an interested party for such information, in addition to placing the notice on their website. After the 45 days have expired and a public hearing has been held, the proposing state agency may amend the originally proposed building standard language based on public comment.

    Should the amendment to the proposed building standard language be substantial in nature, the state agency must allow the public another 45-day comment period. However, if the amendment is nonsubstantive and closely related to the original notice to the public, the amended regulatory language must be made available to the public, but for only 15 days. A nonsubstantive amendment would include changes in grammar and punctuation, word exchanges, clarifications, and similar changes that would not add a burden or requirement on the regulated public that was not disclosed in the original notice. Occasionally, a second 15-day public comment period is conducted because addition amendments are made to address public comments received during the first 15-day public comment period. This occurred during the last code adoption cycle.

    To learn more about the rulemaking process to adopt building standards for inclusion in Title 24, visit the California Building Standards Commission website. Look under the "Codes" tab, then click on "Processes". Also, see the rulemaking information available at the OAL website.

    New requirements for theater seating (#33, Jan - Mar 2012)

    AccessibliityDid you know that 1% of all fixed seats in a theater must be accessible aisle seats? Sure you did, because that is the requirement of Section 1104B.3.4 of Chapter 11B in the 2010 California Building Code (Part 2, Volume 1, of Title 24, California Code of Regulations). Accessible aisle seats are not to have armrests on the aisle side, unless the armrest is removable or may be folded away. The seats must be identified by the International Symbol of Accessibility.

    However, the provisions to Section 1104B.3.4 are being relocated to Section 1104B.3.9, with amendments needed to bring these California building standards into compliance with federal accessibility standards. Other section renumbering is made necessary by this change.

    accessible seatsThe purpose of relocating the code language regarding aisle seats was to improve code clarity by separating the code language regarding accessible aisle seats from that regarding wheelchair spaces. The code changes are:

    - The required accessible aisle seats will become known as "designated aisle seats".
    - The required number of designated aisle seats increased from 1% of the total fixed seats to 5% of the total fixed seats.
    - Designated aisle seats shall be located closest to accessible routes.

    These code changes were proposed by the Division of the State Architect during the 2010 Code Adoption Cycle that recently concluded. The adopted provisions of Section 1104B.3.9 will be effective on July 1, 2012. There are other important amendments to Chapter 11B that warrant our attention before the July 1 effective date. Find the new requirements in the blue colored Supplements dated July 1, 2012, now available. If you submitted the registration card at the time you purchased your California Building Code, the Supplement will arrive by mail. Otherwise, you can download the Supplements from the International Code Council.

    Gas shut-off devices must be approved to DSA standards (#32, Oct - Dec 2011)

    gas shutoffDid you know that gas shutoff devices designed to shut off the flow of gas during seismic motion, or due to excessive flow, are required to be approved to standards developed by the Division of the State Architect? It is true. And inspectors should be looking for required labels to verify DSA approval.
    State law in Health and Safety Code Sections 19180 through 19204 empowers a city, county, or city and county to enact an ordinance requiring the installation of seismic gas shutoff devices or excess gas flow devices on gas piping for a building (excluding utility company piping) open to the public, and requires that such devices meet standards developed by the Division of the State Architect (DSA). The DSA standards and related regulations may be found in the California Code of Regulations, Title 21, Division 1, Chapter 1, Subchapter 5, commencing with Section 1371, and in Subchapter 6, commencing with Section 1386. Subchapter 1 addresses the Earthquake Sensitive Gas Shutoff Valves, and Subchapter 6 addresses Excess Flow Automatic Gas Shutoff values. These regulations establish requirements and processes for the device manufacturer to obtain DSA certification, testing agency qualifications and procedures, labeling of the devices, fees and violations.
    Building inspectors finding such devices on the gas piping of buildings should verify that the device is labeled as required by Section 1378 and 1393. This assures that only devices meeting the standards are being sold and installed. For example, Section 1378 of the DSA regulations requires both the Earthquake Sensitive Gas Shutoff device and its market container (box) to have a label affixed by the manufacturer of the device. The labeling may be attached, engraved, embossed, etched or adhesively applied. The label shall provide the manufacturer's name and address, and the certification number issued by DSA.
    For more detail and exceptions, find the Health and Safety Code Section 19180 through 19204 at the California Law website http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html, and the DSA regulations in Title 21 Sections 1371 through 1400, at the Office of Administrative Law website http://www.oal.ca.gov/.

    Different search methods for bills on California legistive site (#31, July - Sept 2011)

    Did you know there is more than one way to find legislative bills? The California Legislature’s website features at least four ways to search for a bill.
    One way is to just enter the bill number. Another is to enter the author’s name. But what if you don’t know the bill number or the author’s name? You can search by “keywords”; for example you could searchfor bills with keywords like “building”, “fire alarm”, “disabled access” or some other word likely to relate to the subject you are interested in. While this is a good method, it can be tedious and time consuming.

    There is yet another way. However, this method requires that you have knowledge of the areas of law regarding the subject your are looking for. The Legislature’s website provides a Table of Affected Sections listing all the state laws by section number that are affected by proposed legislation. For each affected section of law the table identifies the bill number and whether the bill is adding or amending the law. The table also links directly to the bill.

    For example, let’s say you want to be aware of any legislation proposing new housing accessibility requirements or amendments to existing laws regard- ing housing accessibility. First you will need to know that housing accessibility is the subject of Government Code Section 12955.1. Then you can look through the Table of Affected Sections for Government Code Section 12955.1. Further, look at section numbers close to Section 12955.1 because a bill may propose new accessibility requirements in new sections.

    You may think that it is too much to remember the section numbers of various state laws regarding buildings and features of buildings. Well, remember that the state laws regarding buildings and build- ing features that result in the adoption of building standards are listed in Sections 102 through 114 of the 2010 California Building Code (Title 24, Part 2, Volume 1). The laws are listed under the Authority and Reference of each section.

    So, how about giving this last method a try? It is much easier than it sounds. Just go to the Legislature’s website www.legislature.ca.gov and click on Bill Information, then click on Table of Affected Sections.

    Large tent requirements (#30, Apr - June 2011)

    tentDid you know the State Fire Marshal has authority to establish requirements for tents? It is true for tents made of fabric or other pliable materials, and also of fabric awnings and enclosures to form areas for human occupancy. Health and Safety Code (HSC) Section 13116 requires the State Fire Marshal to establish regulations for fabric tents, awning and other enclosures. HSC Section 13115 establishes that it is unlawful to use a tent of fabric or similar pliable material for a circus, side show, carnival, theater, skating rink, dance hall, or other place of assemblage for 10 or more people, unless the fabric tent, awning or enclosure is made from nonflammable material or is treated and maintained in a flame retardant condition. There are also requirements for fabric tents, awnings and enclosure for use with fewer than 10 people.

    The regulations adopted by the State Fire Marshal are located in California Code of Regulations, Title 19, Division 1, Chapter 2, commencing with Section 303. These regulations establish that is it unlawful to sell or use a fabric tent, awning or enclosure unless it meets the regulations for use, labeling and flame resistance. All tents must be labeled as required by Section 335, which states that each section of top and sidewall of a large tent (for 10 or more people) shall be labeled, and each small tent (for fewer than 10 people) shall be provided a label. Labeling means and the required content of the labels is provided in the regulations. These requirements became effective in 1976 and also prohibit parking vehicles within specific distances of a tent; prohibit smoking, fireworks, open flames or any device emitting flame or spark, and require specific fire extinguishing equipment.

    Read the Title 19 regulations with requirements and exceptions for tents through the Office of Administrative Law website oal.ca.gov. Find the referenced Health and Safety Code provisions at the California Law website www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html.

    Think about this next time you see a restaurant serving meals under an awning, or a religious or recreational activity conducted in a tent.

    Some new buildings will be subject to Commissioning (#29, Jan - Mar 2011)

    San Jose MarriottDid you know that some new buildings will be subject to commissioning this year? And, what is commissioning?! Commissioning is a quality assurance process required by the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code, also known as CALGreen Code, which is Part 11 of Title 24, California Code of Regulations. The CALGreen Code became effective on January 1, 2011, and therefore applies to most new buildings where the date of submittal for the building permit occurred on or after January 1, 2011(Reference Health and Safety Code 18938.5).

    The commissioning requirements apply to nonresidential buildings of 10,000 square feet or more of floor space. The process is to be performed by qualified persons to verify that building systems and components meet the owner's requirements and the basis of the building design, all according to a Commissioning Plan developed during the design process that applies through construction to occupancy.

    Building systems and components covered by the California Energy Code (Part 6 of Title 24) shall be included in the scope of the required Commissioning Plan. The plan must also include performance testing to assure that systems and equipment are operating in a manner as originally intended to achieve maximum efficiencies.

    The commissioning plan must identify a commissioning coordinator and a commissioning team to include the coordinator, building owner or owner's representative, building staff, design professionals, contractors, equipment manufacturers, and testing specialists. The final step in the commissioning process is to provide written operating procedures and training for the building operator so that the green building design is maintained.

    CALGreen training opportunities are available in the coming months. Green Technology is one source of green code training. See their training offerings at www.green-technology.org/calgreen. In the meantime, see Section 5.410 of the CALGreen Code and how to apply Commissioning in the Guide to Nonresidential CALGreen Code, available at the CBSC website www.bsc.ca.gov. Look for the CALGreen tab.

    Responsible person must reside on premises of most apartment buildings (#28, Oct-Dec 2010)

    apartmentsDid you know that a designated responsible person must reside upon the premises of most apartment buildings? It is true if the apartment building or buildings on one parcel have 16 or more apartment units. The responsible person may be a manager, janitor, housekeeper or other person with charge of the facilities, unless the owner resides at the apartment. This is a requirement of Section 42 of Subchapter 1, of Chapter 1, of Title 25 of the California Code of Regulations. Subchapter 1 is adopted by the California Department of Housing and Community Development as required by the California Health and Safety Code, Division 13, Part 1.5, known as the State Housing Law. Subchapter 1 is titled the State Housing Law Regulations. Section 42 makes this same requirement of hotels when there are 12 or more guest rooms.

    Section 42 requires a sign stating the owner's name and address, or the name and address of the owner's agent in charge of the apartment house if there are fewer than 16 apartments but more than 4. The sign must be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises. Read the entire text of Section 42 available at the Office of Administrative Law website ccr.oal.ca.gov.

    You may be wondering why this requirement is important to a building department. Section 6 of the same subchapter in Title 25 states in part that "the governing body of every city or county shall adopt ordinances or regulations imposing the requirements contained in this subchapter." Further, Health and Safety Code Section 17961(a) requires the building department to enforce the State Housing Law and building standards and regulations adopted to implement the State Housing Law, regarding the maintenance, sanitation, ventilation, use, or occupancy of apartment houses, hotels, and dwellings.

    A fire sprinkler system is required in newly constructed one and two family homes (#27, Mar-June 2010)

    Did you know that a fire sprinkler system is required in newly constructed one and two family homes, and townhomes? That is the case in over 100 jurisdictions throughout California under local ordinances. Soon it will be a statewide requirement.

    On January 1, 2011, the new California Residential Code (CRC) becomes effective. The new CRC is Part 2.5 of the 2010 edition of the California Building Standards Code in Title 24. It is based on the International Residential Code published by the International Code Council.

    CRC Section R313 requires an automatic residential fire sprinkler system in townhomes and one and two family dwellings that are covered by the scope of the new code. A fire sprinkler system is not required when performing alterations or additions to existing housing structures when a fire sprinkler system does not already exist. The CRC requires a fire sprinkler system to be designed and installed according to either the NFPA Standard 13D, or Section R313 of the CRC. Section R313 states that its provisions shall be considered equivalent to the NFPA Standard 13D. The CRC provides for stand-alone systems and systems that are interconnected with the water supply piping to plumbing fixtures of the dwelling.

    CRC Section R313 establishes requirements for fire sprinkler system piping, sprinkler head ratings, location and coverage, water supply, inspection requirements, and more. The CRC provisions are available at the website of the Building Standards Commission www.bsc.ca.gov. Look for Express Terms (code text) for Part 2.5 under the 2009 Code Adoption Cycle. The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) offers seminars and online courses on the NFPA 13D.

    Find details at the NFSA website www.nfsa.org. Look for the link to Seminars.

    About Wattles, CalGreen Code (#26, July-Sept 2010)

    wattlesWattles are commonly tubes of plastic netting filled with rice straw and used to control erosion. Section 402.1 of the 2008 California Green Building Standards Code, in Part 11 of Title 24, California Code of Regulations, provides a definition of the term Wattles.

    This new code is being referred to as the CalGreen Code. According to Section 406.2 of the CalGreen Code, the use of wattles is one acceptable means of controlling soil erosion that may be caused by site storm water runoff and harm public drainage systems and waterways.

    These two sections of the 2008 CalGreen Code are adopted by the California Department of Housing and Community Development for application to Group R Occupancies, including hotels, motels, apartments, lodging houses, dwellings, dormitories, condominiums, shelters for homeless persons, and more as explained in Section 104. However, all the standards of the 2008 CalGreen Code are voluntary, unless adopted by local government as a mandatory standard. Presently over 40 California cities have some form of green building ordinance.

    In January 2010 the California Building Standards Commission adopted a proposed 2010 CalGreen Code. The effective date of the 2010 CalGreen Code is planned for January 1, 2011 with mandatory statewide requirements. The mandatory provisions will apply to many common building occupancies, including housing occupancies. Building code enforcement personnel such as plan examiners and building inspectors should begin preparing for these new requirements.

    The website of the California Building Standards Commission www.bsc.ca.gov provides an online copy of both the 2008 and 2010 editions of the CalGreen Code.

    Is there basis in law for the understanding that a builder must warranty his/her work of 10 years? (#25, Jan - Mar 2010)

    Did you know that there is some basis in law for the understanding that a builder must warranty his or her work for 10 years? We have all heard that said. But what is the basis of that statement and is it correct?

    Well, there is law that establishes a 10 year time frame, but not for a written 10-year warranty of construction. Instead, Section 337.15 of the California Code of Civil Proceduresn states in part that "no action may be brought to recover damages from any person who develops real property or performs or furnishes the design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, testing, or observation of construction or construction of an improvement to real property more than 10 years after the substantial completion of the development or improvement" for "any latent deficiency (not apparent by reasonable inspection) in the design, specification, surveying, planning, supervision, or observation of construction or construction of an improvement to, or survey of, real property." Accordingly, prior to the passing of 10 years from the completion of construction, a person may seek the recovery of damages relating to latent defects in construction. Such ability under the law is aside from an issued warranty.

    As for warranty documents, there is law that prescribes requirements for expressed warranties, written warranties and implied warranties. Requirements for any written warranty or implied warranty for any sold goods is established in the California Civil Code beginning with Section 1792. What is an "implied warranty"? The law holds the manufacturer and retailer of goods responsible for the marketability (fit for the purpose) of goods when there is knowledge of the buyer's intended use of the goods.

    The Civil Code also has requirements for warranties and warranty document content on some sold goods. For example, Sections 1797.90 through 1797.96, require a written warranty document when there is any expressed warranty on the life of residential roofing material or roofing installation. Civil Code Sections 1797 through 1797.7 require a written one-year warranty for all new manufactured homes. Read all these laws and more about warranties at the state website leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html.

    Accessibility Sign Requires Fine Notice (#24, Oct - Dec 2009)

    accessibility logoDid you know that the sign with the International Symbol of Accessibility required at the head of a new accessible parking space must include the statement "Minimum Fine $250"? This is a requirement of Section 1129B.4 of Chapter 11B of the 2007 California Building Code (Volume 1 of Part 2 of Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations). The required language is to be located below the International Symbol of Accessibility, or on a separate sign.

    The regulatory amendment to add the fine language was developed by the Division of the State Architect (DSA) in response to Assembly Bill 1531 (Chapter 413, Statutes of 2007) and approved by the California Building Standards Commission to be effective on July 1, 2008.

    On August 1, 2009, DSA issued revised Interpretation of Regulations Document #IR 11B-7 to clarify the signage requirement of Section 1129B.4 and other related matters. IR documents and the Access Compliance Design Manual issued by DSA are excellent references and are available under the link "Accessibility" on the DSA website www.dsa.dgs.ca.gov.

    It should be understood that Section 1129B.4 discussed above applies to parking provided at public buildings, public accommodations, commercial facilities and publicly funded housing (see definitions in California Building Code), but not at privately funded multifamily dwellings. Parking facilities at privately funded multifamily dwellings are subject to the requirements of Chapter 11A, of the California Building Code. Section 1109A.8.8 of Chapter 11A requires the sign at accessibility parking spaces with the International Symbol of Accessibility, in the same size, color and location as does Section 1129B.4, except that there is no requirement for the language regarding fines. Further, in the proposed language for the 2010 California Building Code now before the California Building Standards Commission, HCD is not proposing any change to Section 1109A.8.8.

    Accordingly, require the statement "Minimum Fine $250" along with the International Symbol of Accessibility at each new parking space designed for use by persons with disabilities, except at such spaces provided at privately funded multifamily dwellings. The fine language requirement is not to be applied retroactively.


    Links to complete past editions prior to 2009