Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
August 2005
Commercial Building Code on Path to Renewal

Administrative codes and adopted national standards are the foundation for safe buildings and structures in Wisconsin. The codes establish minimum safety and health expectations for the built environment and, therefore, are the main tool for state and municipal code officials. The Wisconsin Commercial Building Code (WCBC), Comm 61-65, is also used extensively by the design community. For codes to be effective tools they must be kept current; codes cannot be static. To ensure that end, the Safety and Buildings Division (S & B) has a schedule to regularly review S&B administrative codes and to create code development projects to update them as necessary.

We are now in the middle of a two-year review of Comm 61-65. Staff and advisory councils are watching the national process that will culminate in 2006 editions of four International Code Council codes: [International Building Code (IBC), International Energy Conservation Code, (IECC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), and International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC)]. Year 2000 editions of those codes are the basis of the current 2002 WCBC. Even though there were some WCBC changes since 2002 (changes that included some provisions from the newer editions of the ICC codes), for all intents and purposes, we are now working with model codes developed in 1999. To efficiently review ICC changes that have occurred since 2000, and those which will be part of projected 2006 ICC editions, S&B is working with a number of advisory code councils in considering various parts of the WCBC.

One council is reviewing the IMC and IFGC, one is reviewing the IECC, and four are reviewing IBC "specialty" areas (General, Structural, Fire Systems, Fire Safety - Means of Egress and Accessibility). In addition, there are other resources and advisory councils involved with related subjects (i.e., electrical code, elevator code, boilers and pressure vessels, etc.). Interested parties may keep up with the progress of the various councils online and can sign up to receive email messages about council activities.

New advisory Fire Systems and the Fire Safety Councils held their initial meetings several months ago. The Fire Systems group is reviewing such things as the sprinkler and alarm provisions, while the Fire Safety group focuses on subjects like firewalls and interior finishes. Also, an Alteration and Change of Occupancy Advisory Council is reviewing the International Existing Buildings Code.

If specialty councils decide to make recommendations to S&B regarding proposed code language, S&B takes their input through the two "umbrella" advisory councils - the Commercial Buildings Code Council and the Multifamily Dwellings Code Council. A joint meeting of the umbrella councils was held in June, when updates were provided on plumbing code activities and on the aforementioned fire groups. The hope is that the specialty groups will have completed their assignments and offered any recommendations by late August, so that we can work toward future public hearings on proposals. The umbrella councils will meet together again this fall.

Even with all of the valuable work and efforts of the experts on the various councils, rule changes are never put into place until reviewed by the public. When the councils and this agency feel the work is "good to go," public hearings will take place to give Wisconsin residents the opportunity to provide their thoughts on any code development proposals. If all stays on track, public hearings on any WCBC proposals will be held at the beginning of the new year, 2006, which is an apt time for code renewal.

Should you have any questions on this article, the project, or the rule-making process, please contact me at jsmith@commerce.state.wi.us or 608-266-0251.

--Jim Smith, PE

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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