Quarterly News for California Building Departments

Issue #50, April - June 2016

Changing of the Guard...

Robert Keefe

Robert Keefe, the creator of this newsletter and author of its past 49 issues, has retired. Robert joined Willdan in 2002 following a career in state government that started in 1963. He gained building code experience while working at the Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of Codes and Standards. He taught evening building code classes over a 10-year span at Cosumnes River College and U.C. Davis Extension, in Sacramento. At Willdan, Robert managed the Building and Safety Division in Northern California until 2008. He continued authoring this newsletter on a part-time basis until this issue. Robert joined the Building Standards Commission as a retired annuitant in 2008 and developed most of the educational documents available at the Commission's website. We wish Robert and his wife Louise many years of good health and enjoyment in retirement.

Our new Editor is Dan Chudy. Dan joined Willdan in 2015 following a 30-year career in local government. He has worked as a licensed General Contractor, Building Inspector, Plans Examiner and Building Official. Dan’s education includes a Ph.D. in Public Administration, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management. Dan is a former CALBO President (1999) and is currently the Vice-Chairman of the State Historic Building Safety Board. Over the past 30 years, Dan has authored numerous published articles concerning the Building Codes as well as a book, titled: “California Historical Building Code Commentary”. Dan aspires to carry on with Robert’s diligent newsletter legacy and provide articles of interest to Building Inspectors, Plans Examiners, Permit Technicians, Building Officials and others in our industry. In that effort, Dan welcomes input from any and all readers concerning topics of interest. Dan’s email address is

Dan Chudy

CSUMB Library
CSU Sacramento
Auburn Justice Center
UCI Dorms
Rialto First Christian Church

Pictured: A few buildings plan-checked or inspected by Willdan

Focus on the Codes

A New Tool for Your Tool Box (Part 1 of a Series)

code books

By Dan Chudy, Ph.D., CBO, LEED AP, CASp
Principal Project Manager – Willdan Engineering

architectural house drawing

After a full 360 days of retirement, I decided to get back to work. I had spent 24 years as a Building Official and 6 years as a Building Inspector/Plans Examiner and came to the realization that I needed some brushing-up on the codes if I was going to get back into the inspection business. As a Building Inspector, back in the 1980’s, I had learned the value of having a certain inspection routine and the challenges of trying to memorize all of the codes. Those same challenges are experienced by Plans Examiners as they thumb through hundreds of pages of code to find that certain code section which is applicable to the scenario drawn on the plans. After dusting off my code books and beginning to study, I realized that there was a more logical way (at least for me) to organize and consolidate the most common residential code requirements by segregating them according to which room in the house they applied. The result was an abbreviated listing of hundreds of code provisions grouped according to the room or area in a dwelling to which they related. The complete list is much too large to publish in a single Newsletter article; therefore, this article will be continued in subsequent Newsletters as we move through a typical home, from A (Attic) to U (Utility Room).

Please understand that this effort is a work in progress and I make no claim that the list is all inclusive nor that it is without error. If any errors or omissions are found, please send me an email so that the list can be improved. Email comments or corrections to

Future Willdan Letter articles will consolidate the various code requirements for Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Carports, Closets, Decks, Entry, Foyer, Garage, Hallways, Kitchens, Laundry, Patios, and Utility Rooms. In future issues, you will find these at Code Series Compiled.



  1. CRC R202 – Habitable attic not considered a story. 70 S.F. min. and compliant w/R304 & R305
  2. CRC R310 – Egress window in habitable attic: 44” sill, 5.7 S.F., 20” wide, 24” tall
  3. CRC R313.3.1.1 Exception 1– AFES NOT required in unoccupied attic – except one head above fuel fired equipment
  4. CRC R314.3 – Smoke alarms required in habitable attics
  5. CRC R807.1 – Attic access required if 30 S.F. or more AND 30” or more vertical height (22”X30” min rough-in)


  1. CPC 507.4 – Drainage pan under water heater if: in attic, on floor/ceiling, floor/subfloor where damage results from leakage. ¾” minimum drainage line to approved location
  2. CPC 507.5 – T & P prohibited from discharging into drainage pan.


  1. CMC 802.6.1 – Horizontal vent run limited to 75% of vertical run
  2. CMC 802..7.3 – Single wall vent pipe shall NOT originate or pass thru an attic space or concealed space (Amerivent flex vent single wall no good in attic but Duravent double wall flex vent is OK)
  3. CMC 904.10 – min. attic access = 22”X30” (also CRC R807.1)
  4. CMC 904.10 1 & 2 – Access walkway 24” wide solid flooring with 30”X30” min. clear passageway and 20’ max from attic access opening.
  5. CMC 904.10.3 – Level working platform not less than 30”X30” at service side of unit
  6. CMC 904.11.5 – Light and receptacle at mechanical unit with switch at attic access opening. Duplex receptacle NOT to be mounted in upward facing position.
  7. CMC 1312.4 - Gas shut-off within 6’ of mechanical unit


  1. NEC 210.8(A) and 210.12(A) – receptacle outlets in attic do NOT require AFCI or GFCI protection (including the FAU circuit) and are not require to be Tamper-Resistant (NEC 406.12)
  2. NEC 314.29 – Junction boxes in attic to be accessible
  3. NEC 334.23 & 320.23 – All electrical wiring within 6’ of attic access opening must be secured and protected by a guard strip
  4. NEC 334.23 & 320.23 – Romex (NMC) wire within 6’ of attic access opening and NOT installed along the face of a rafter or joist shall be protected by a guard strip (aka: running board – see 334.15(A))
  5. NEC 690.31(D) & (E) – PV DC conductors inside the building to be in metallic conduit or MC cable and 10” below the roof deck (unless below the PV panels) (Also CRC R331.3 Conduit in attic to be run along bottom of load bearing members)
  6. CRC R331.3 – Photovoltaic DC conductors in the attic shall be in metallic conduit and run along the bottom of load bearing members and labeled every 10’.


  1. CEC 110.8(d) & (e) and 150.0(a) & (b) – R-30 (or higher) ceiling insulation (depending on the climate zone and compliance approach used - some exceptions may apply).
  2. CEC 150.1(c)2 – Radiant barrier at roof required IF prescriptive approach used


  1. CRC R305.1 – min. ceiling height 7’-0” in habitable space, hallways, bathrooms, toilet rooms, and laundry rooms
  2. CRC R305.1.1 – 6’-8” min. ceiling height in basement areas that ARE NOT habitable space, hallways, bathrooms, toilet rooms, and laundry rooms
  3. CRC R310 – Egress windows: 44” sill, 5.7 S.F., 20” wide, 24” tall. Window well per R310.2
  4. CRC R310 Exception – basements used only for mechanical equipment and not more than 200 S.F. don’t require egress windows
  5. CRC R310.2 – Window well min. size: min. 36” wide and min. 36” deep (from window) and 9 S.F. min. area
  6. CRC R310.2.1 – Window well ladder required if deeper than 44”
  7. CRC R310.2.2 – Window wells to be designed to drain
  8. CRC R314.3.4 (9) – Smoke alarms required on the basement ceiling near the entry to the stairs
  9. CRC R315.1.4 (6) – Carbon monoxide alarms required in basements
  10. CRC R501.3 – underside of floors requires a minimum ½” gypsum board or 5/8” plywood covering if less than 2X10 joists. Except if space above is fire sprinklered or if it is an underfloor crawl space with no fuel-fired appliances or storage. Also 80 S.F. per story may be unprotected


  1. NEC 210.12 – Arc-fault circuit interrupter required for outlets in all rooms of house that are not protected by GFCI (with a few exceptions for dedicated circuits)
  2. NEC 210.52 (G) – Basements and garages to have at least (1) receptacle outlet
  3. NEC 210.70 (A) – at least (1) wall switched light outlet required in every habitable room and bathroom and hallway, stairway, garage, exterior side of outdoor grade level entrances (garage vehicle doors are exempt)
  4. NEC 406.12 – Tamper resistant receptacle outlets for all non-locking 120V/15 & 20 Amp outlets unless for dedicated appliance or luminaries or over 5.5’ above floor.


  1. CEC Lighting Mandatory Measures (150.0(k)) – All other rooms (excluding kitchen, laundry, garage, utility, bathroom) to have either high-efficacy light fixtures OR controlled by a dimmer or vacancy sensor

Construction Trends and Forecast for 2016

under construction

According to many of the leading economists and construction industry experts, the activity forecast for 2016 is looking positive. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), has predicted that single-family construction will increase slightly, as most new household formations are renting and many existing homeowners are not moving. Cited as reasons for the uptick in single-family construction activity are that new households are being formed; more jobs are being created; home equity is increasing; and confidence is coming back.

Another leading construction industry forecasting report, the Dodge Report Forecast, has predicted the following trends:

  • Single family housing will rise 20% in dollars, corresponding to a 17% increase in units
  • Multifamily housing will increase 7% in dollars and 5% in units
  • Commercial building will increase 11%, up from the 4% gain estimated for 2015
  • Institutional building will advance 9%, picking up the pace after the 6% rise in 2015.
  • Manufacturing plant construction will recede an additional 1% in dollar terms
  • Public works will be flat with its 2015 amount
  • Electric utilities and gas plants will fall 43% after a sharp 159% jump in 2015

The 2016 Dodge Construction Outlook was presented at the 77th annual Outlook Executive Conference held by Dodge Data & Analytics in Washington, D.C. Copies of the report with additional details by building sector can be ordered at


The Growing Shortage of Plan Reviewers and Building Inspectors

By Dan Chudy, Ph.D., CBO, LEED AP, CASp
Principal Project Manager – Willdan Engineering

  • FEMA photo

Planning... construction... inspection... code enforcement... At every step, building safety staff are key.

During the recent 2016 CALBO ABM held in San Diego, I had the opportunity to speak with many of my former and current colleagues. Almost without exception, the growing shortage of qualified staffing became the major topic of our discussions. One former colleague, who now resides in another state, indicated that an academic study had been done in that state to forecast the availability of qualified building department staffing over the next 5 to 10 years. My former colleague reported to me that the findings of the study were dismal and that the study found that for every 4 qualified individuals leaving our profession, only 1 qualified individual will be available to replace them. (See pie chart of data from an NIBS survey showing that 82% of code officials plan to leave in the next 15 years.) Add to that the anticipated increase in construction activity over that same time period and you have a recipe for disaster.

In Pennsylvania, where the number of building inspectors is down approximately 25% from 2007 levels, municipalities and third-party agencies are experiencing shortages in qualified building inspectors and plans examiners to fill those vacancies, while builders are complaining that they can’t get the level of service they need. In an effort to address the shortage, Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing legislation to create a training program whereby a certified code official would agree to assume “responsible supervision” of a trainee. While under supervision, the trainee would be assisting with building inspections and plan reviews. The training program would be voluntary, and cities could opt to not participate.

As members of this profession, we all need to do our part to seek out and encourage talented individuals to consider a careers as a Building Inspectors, Plans Examiners, Permit Technicians, or Building Officials. We need to build opportunities for growth and development through volunteer programs, ride along programs, trainee programs, apprenticeship programs, internships, and developing related programs at our local community colleges.

Plans to Leave the Buildling Regulatory Profession
Data: NIBS Survey, Future of Code Officials
code officials retirement chart


For a list of legislative actions which may have an impact on local building departments, visit the CALBO Legislative Watch page.

Legislative Review

For a more complete list of legislative actions which may have an impact on local building departments, please visit the CALBO Legislative Watch link at:

The following is a list of bills that are being considered and discussed by the California Legislature which may be of interest, sorted by topic, then title. This report is not intended to be all inclusive. Readers are encouraged to seek out additional sources of information pertaining to legislative actions in Sacramento.

Click the + next to each bill title to view its description, or click the "Expand All" button.

Disabled Access Related Bills

accessiblity logo
Relates to standards for construction-related accessibility for persons with disabilities and claims for violations of those standards. Requires that information about a certain demand letter and complaint be submitted to the Commission on Disability Access in a standard format specified by the Commission.
Establishes a rebuttable presumption in actions regarding discrimination relating to a construction-related accessibility standard, that certain technical violations do not cause a plaintiff to experience difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment, if specified conditions are met. Provides a specified exemption. Requires a list of certified access specialists. Relates to the certification program for such specialists. Relates to reviews of projects which have received an access certification.
Provides that when there is a conflict between the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and any state law, standard, or regulation, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 shall control. Prohibits a construction-related accessibility claim from being initiated in a legal proceeding against a defendant unless the defendant has been served with a certain demand letter and the alleged violations have not been corrected within a number of days.
Requires an attorney who sends or serves a complaint alleging a construction-related accessibility claim against a public entity to send a copy of the complaint and submit the notification of judgment, settlement, or dismissal to the Commission on Disability Access.
Requires applicants for Certified Access Specialist (CASp) certification or renewal to additionally provide to the State Architect the name of the city, county, or city and county in which the applicant intends to provide or has provided services. Requires the State Architect to post that information on his or her Internet Web site. Requires commercial owner or lessor to provide a lessee or tenant with an inspection report, if there is one. Authorizes the tenant or lessee to require such inspection.

Water Related Bills

Requires the lease or rental agreement of a single-family residential real property or any portion of a multifamily residential real property or commercial real property that is entered into, renewed, or amended, be accompanied by a disclosure stating the property owner's responsibility to replace all noncompliant plumbing fixtures with water-conserving plumbing fixtures.
Requires each urban retail water supplier to establish a method to identify and restrict excessive water use. Authorizes the establishment of a rate structure that penalizes such excessive water users. Authorizes an excessive water use ordinance, rule, or tariff condition. Makes a violation thereof an infraction with specified monetary penalties.
Requires for commercial property the replacement of any noncompliant fixture or fitting in specified additions, alterations, and improvements to such property and the replacement of any noncompliant plumbing fixture or fitting in all such property in accordance with a specified schedule based on floor space. Provides related definitions. Authorizes county offices of education and school district boards to receive moneys from the CalConserve Water Use Efficiency Fund for efficiency projects.
Adds to the model water efficient landscape ordinance a permit requirement for the installation or replacement of specified automatic irrigation systems, or the expansion of the same specified automatic irrigation system to increase the irrigated area by a specified percentage or more, for a landscape project. Allows the governing body of a local agency to adopt an ordinance prescribing fees for filing an application for the permit, subject to the restrictions.
Defines dark graywater as a specified wastewater that comes from kitchen sinks and dishwashers. Requires the Department of Housing and Community Development, at the next triennial building standards rulemaking cycle, to develop and submit for approval building standards for the construction, installation, and alteration of dark graywater systems for indoor and outdoor uses.
Requires the Department of Water Resources to create the Water Efficient Landscaping Program for the purpose of encouraging local agencies and water purveyors to use economic incentives that promote the efficient use of water, promote the benefits of consistent landscape ordinances, and support and enhance water inefficient grass replacement.
Requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to adopt and submit to Building Standards Commission for approval amendments to the building standards adopted pursuant to these provisions that require that all new single-family and duplex residential dwelling units include specified components to allow the separate discharge of graywater for direct irrigation.

Other Bills

Requires a licensee to register the licensee has knowledge of the conviction of a licensee of any felony or any other crime substantially related to the qualification, functions, and duties of a licensed contractor, or any civil action settlement or administrative action resulting in a specified monetary settlement. Provides that failure to comply would be grounds for disciplinary action. Requires professional liability insurers to report any settlements. Requires the Registrar to make public all actions.
Authorizes the Building Standards Commission to also appoint individuals from the energy and resource efficiency professions to an advisory panel. States the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would promote the creation of energy and resource efficient homes in California.
Creates the Dig Safe Act of 2016. Requires excavators to delineate the area to be excavated. Requires the installation operator to locate and field mark its subsurface installations within that area. Exempts property owners making improvements using hand tools. Relates to enforcement of field marking subsurface natural gas and electric infrastructure. Prohibits liability for damages of the excavator for inaccurate field markings. Requires a advisory committee. Relates to the installation of building sewers.
Amends the Planning and Zoning Law. Replaces the term second unit with accessory dwelling unit through the Law. Adds the findings and declarations that allowing accessory dwelling units in single-family or multifamily residential zones provides additional rental housing stock and are an essential component of housing supply in the State. Requires an ordinance for such units to include specified provisions regarding areas where such dwelling units may be located, standards, and lot density.
Updates regulations governing lead-related construction work to conform to federal rules. Requires a request for authorization to enforce provisions of that rule and, upon that authorization, to adopt regulations establishing procedures pursuant to which a local law enforcement agency may carry out enforcement activities in its jurisdiction. Prohibits lead-related construction on a structure by a person which conducted the related inspection, and provides for license revocation for violations.
Requires all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or government agency to be identified as all-gender toilet facilities. Authorizes health officers or inspectors to inspect for compliance with these provisions during any inspection.
Requires the Board of Directors of the State Association of Code Enforcement Officers to develop and maintain standards for the designation of such officers. Requires the designation of minimum training, qualifications, and experience requirements, and to qualify local political subdivisions and accredited educational institutions as related education program providers. Requires the Board to set related annual fees to cover the costs of administering these provisions and a register of applicants.
Relates to land use, local ordinances and energy systems. Requires a city, county, or city and county to make all documentation and forms associated with the permitting of advanced energy storage available on a publicly accessible Internet Web site. Requires those entities to allow for the electronic submittal of a permit application and associated documentation. Prohibits the calculation of a permit fee being based on certain related actions.