by Christopher Howe
The Impact of Recent Changes to the Massachusetts State Building Code Requirements Applicable to Construction in Existing Buildings
Chapter 34 of the Massachusetts State Building Code contains the code requirements applicable toconstruction in existing buildings. A thoroughly revised version of chapter 34 went into effect on April 11th, 2014. These revisions can have a significant impact on your current or future plans to modify your existing facilities.
The requirements of chapter 34 are based upon the International Existing Building Code (IEBC), published by the International Code Council.
In general, the latest changes to chapter 34 reflect the current tendency of the State Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) toward adoption of the International Code Council’s codes with as few amendments as possible. Following are a couple of examples of significant changes to chapter 34.
Prescriptive Compliance Method: The IEBC contains three separate and distinct compliance methods applicable to work in existing buildings. In determining the requirements for construction in an existing building the owner / architect may choose one of the three methods. Each of these three compliance methods offers some relief from the building code requirements that would be applicable to new construction.
The “prescriptive compliance method” is intended to be applied when alterations are proposed in newer buildings, or in buildings that substantially comply with current building code requirements. The April 11th amendment to chapter 34 has provided some much-needed clarification of the prescriptive compliance method. In order to apply the prescriptive compliance method to a project, the existing building must now comply with the 2009 edition of the International Fire Code. Compliance with the International Fire Code ensures that the fire protection system, means of egress, and other critical life safety components of the building meet certain minimum requirements.
Once it is established that the building complies with the International Fire Code, the prescriptive compliance method requirements are quite simple. Essentially the prescriptive compliance method requires that the proposed alterations maintain the current degree of code compliance, and do not result in conditions that are less safe than those that existed prior to the alterations.
Existing means of egress: Prior to the April 11th amendment, section 188.8.131.52 of chapter 34 required that every space and story be provided with the minimum number of means of egress required by chapter 10 of the International Building Code. Essentially this section required that every space and story undergoing alterations be provided with the same number of means of egress that would be required in new construction. Compliance with this section was especially difficult in many of Boston’s older office buildings that were constructed under previous editions of the building code, or prior to the adoption of a modern building code.
Section 184.108.40.206 has now been removed from chapter 34. Under the April 11th amendment the number of means of egress required now varies depending on the compliance method being applied, and on the scope / type of construction. In many cases chapter 34 now only requires that the story of the building where the alterations are to occur be provided with the minimum number of means of egress per chapter 10 of the International Building Code, as opposed to the previous requirement that every space and every story be provided with that minimum number of means of egress.
This article provides only a sampling of the numerous revisions that have been made to chapter 34 of the Massachusetts State Building Code. Consult with your architect or code consultant to determine the potential impact of the chapter 34 revisions on your specific facility or project. CDHA Consulting also offers seminars that explore in detail the numerous recent amendments to the Massachusetts State Building Code, and the specific amendments to chapter 34. The seminars are AIA approved for 1.5 HSW/LU hours each.
Christopher D. Howe, AIA, CBO, CCS, is Architectural Consulting, Code Consulting & Architectural Specifications