Accurate Review


2015 I.B.C. Changes

An Accurate Review White Paper, Spring 2016


By:  Don Olivieri, NCARB



Changes to the 2015 International Building Code


Every three years the International Code Council updates the International Building Code (IBC). The IBC is widely adopted throughout the country in whole or with various amendments. In 2015 the 2015 IBC was completed and now many of the villages, municipalities, counties and states are adopting this new code. Many of the revisions are housekeeping in nature to clarify or rewording to make the code easier to use. However, there are always several significant changes to the code. With this paper we will give you a brief overview of the major revisions to the code.



The Classification (Use) of all buildings is defined in Chapter 3. Besides several housekeeping changes the only significant change in the Building Use Group Chapter is in Health Care. With the aging of our population and subsequent increase in elderly housing and treatment buildings, a comprehensive re-working of the requirements in the code for Group R-4 (assisted living and group homes) and Group I2 (hospitals and nursing homes) was necessary. The code really went a long way in clarify this emerging market segment. Group I1 and I2 will have conditions 1 and 2, based on the type of care, level of care and the occupant’s capability for self-evacuation.  Condition 1 is for occupants capable of evacuation without assistance and Condition 2 occupants require some assistance. This clarifies a historically gray area of the Code.




Section 402 which address and defines Covered Mall Buildings includes revisions to help define such things as: “Anchor Buildings”, and Emergency Power requirements,




Although the International Code Council uses the term “Requirements,” Chapter 5 addresses the maximum Height and Area limits of buildings according to use and construction type. The Changes in this section are to make it easier to understand how an automatic Fire Sprinkler system can increase these limitations.




The main change to this chapter was the further refining of Section 915, which replaces and greatly expands upon former Section 908.7 on carbon monoxide (CO) detection. The relocation of the requirements provides an independent section within Chapter 9 to address the CO alarm requirements. This relocation also clarifies the requirements with regard to detector and alarm placement. Additionally Group E (Education) is now included as required to have CO Detection.


Automatic water mist systems (904.11) are now formally recognized as an automatic fire extinguishing system within Chapter 9 of the IBC (and International Fire Code). Although such systems are allowed where consistent with their testing and listing requirements (NFPA 750), these systems cannot be considered as alternatives to automatic sprinkler systems from the perspective of allowing reductions or exceptions to other code requirements, such as increases for area and height.


Section 910, rather than focusing on Smoke and Heat Vents, now concentrations on smoke removal. The mechanical smoke removal requirements have been revised and clarified.


Although seldom used, Limited area sprinklers (903.3), were revised to be more comprehensive and limited in their use. Such systems are now limited to 6 sprinklers, where in past editions the limit was 19. In addition to the limitation of 6 sprinklers, the areas of protection are limited to light hazard and Ordinary Hazard Group I.




In retail buildings or retail portions of buildings, the total occupant count has been revised lowered, to 60 square feet per occupant for all floors. Previously, the basement and grade-level floors had a higher occupant load of 30 square feet per person. More Square feet per person means less total occupants.




Elevator not used as fire service access elevators (FSAE) or occupant evacuation elevators (OEE) have significant changes in regards to Elevator Lobbies. Additionally, there are new requirements and clarifications concerning the protection of the hoistway opening rather than requiring an elevator lobby enclosure.


Hoistway venting for elevators has finally been deleted. It always was in direct conflict when there was an elevator lobby with pressurization.


Larger elevators will be required in many high rise buildings because of the FSAE requirement.  As always these Elevator requirements need to be worked with the ASME A17.1 Code.




The Existing Building Chapter (Chapter 34) is deleted completely. Everything having to do with existing buildings is now contained in the International Fire Code and International Existing Building Codes.




Other Changes/updates include:

1. Low Level Exit Signage in Hotels

2. Emergency Voice Alarm Communication (EVAC) is now required in all Group E (Educational) building with a occupancy of greater than 30

3. Low Frequency Audible Alarms per NFPA72 Chapter 18.



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