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2012 Residential Construction Codes

Every three years updated model construction codes are published through the International Code Council (ICC). The State Building Code Council (SBCC), with the assistance of their Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), adopt those applicable to our state. The TAGs also review all existing and proposed statewide amendments, as well as any changes in the new editions of the model codes and report to the SBCC for inclusion in Washington’s adopted version. The process continues with public hearings and testimony on the proposed code adoption and changes and ends with the Council adopting the amended code by December 1st. The revised codes cannot take effect before the end of the regular legislative session and typically have an effective date of July 1 which is exactly what happened again this year.

The 2012 Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) is where you will find the most changes including a new layout and new terminology. The 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) likewise, contains many somewhat significant revisions but several have been mitigated or revised by Washington amendments. BIAW has posted this information below for easy reference. BIAW offered THE class devoted specifically to changes effective July 1st when the 2012 IRC and the updated Washington Energy Code took effect. The workshop provided a great deal of information about the significant changes to the IRC and WSEC from expert instructors and local code officials. It also covered some of the applicable changes to Washington’s residential electrical and plumbing codes.

To view the 2009 to 2012 IRC comparison click here.

BIAW/NAHB members can receive a discount if you order the 2012 IRC Code Book through Builder Books, the publishing arm of NAHB.

Click here to view the presentation in PDF format.

What's New?

Code review is ongoing as builders and code officials began the process of actually using the new codes, which gave rise to questions, concerns and requests for interpretations and emergency rules by the State Building Code Council (SBCC). To clarify or correct the newly adopted code, below is a list of some of the relevant changes or interpretations that have occurred since BIAW's training program and/or the new codes took effect:

  • Climate Zones
    An emergency rule eliminated Climate Zone 6 in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties and merged them into Climate Zone 5, alleviating any negative economic impact on these counties which were previously included in the same Climate Zone as the other counties in the eastern part of the state and by this rule merged into one zone.
  • Ventilation
    During the transition from the 2009 to the 2012 codes, the requirement to install a polyethylene ground cover in crawl spaces was not incorporated in the sections covering crawl space ventilation. An amendment to return vapor retarder (six mil black poly) requirements was approved as an emergency rule.
  • Footings
    By Interpretation 13-02 the SBCC answered a question regarding underground footings, noting that underground footings do not make multiple buildings a one building structure. Further, factors defining a “building” include the fire separation, exterior walls and type of fire-resistance-rated wall assemblies used in the design and construction of the buildings. The Interpretation further clarifies the definition of duplex and townhouse and deciding factors in using the IRC or the IBC for construction.
  • Hot Water Pipe Insulation
    By Interpretation 13-15 the SBCC noted it is allowable for R-3 insulation to be discontinuous where it passes through wall studs, floor joist or other structural members and where the pipes pass other piping, conduit. Additionally, where the piping is in an exterior wall cavity or other insulated space, no additional pipe insulation is needed if the insulation provides at least R-3 coverage around the piping.
  • Lead Content
    An Emergency Rule will take effect April 1, 2014 limiting the maximum allowable lead content to not more than 0.25 percent in pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures intended to convey or dispense water for human consumption.
  • Townhouses
    Currently there is a proposed revision that may impact townhome projects built under the 2012 IRC. Revisions to R302.2 will require either:
    1.  a common, 1-hour fire-resistance-rated wall assembly and a fire sprinkler system; or
    2.  a common, 2-hour fire-resistance-rated wall assembly with no plumbing or mechanical equipment, ducts or vents contained in the common wall cavity; or
    3.  two, one-hour fire-resistance-rated wall assemblies meeting the requirements for exterior walls.
    The townhouse proposed revision is currently open for public comment and will be voted on for adoption at the SBCC meeting on March 7. Your comments can be made at the SBCC website.

Current Codes

2012 International Residential Code

Many of the changes to the IRC are for clarification or to simplify code language. For additional reference, consult the complete 29-page matrix detailing every revision, deletion and addition from the 2009 IRC to the 2012 IRC below.

To view the 2009 to 2012 IRC comparison click here

BIAW/NAHB members can receive a discount if you order the 2012 IRC Code Book through Builder Books, the publishing arm of NAHB.

Click here to view the Washington State amendments to the 2012 IRC

2012 Washington State Energy Code

View the current Washington State Energy Code
View a list of the changes from the 2009 to 2012 WSEC
View the Prescriptive Checklist for the Washington State Energy code, prepared by the WSU Energy Program.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The requirement for mandatory carbon monoxide alarms for all new construction have been in place since January 1, 2011, as adopted by the SBCC as part of the 2009 code cycle.

  • As of April 1, 2012 when a permit is issued for an alteration, repair, addition or creation of additional sleeping rooms, the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm is required.
  • Code requires the seller of any owner-occupied single-family residence sold on or after June 26, 2009 to equip the residence with carbon monoxide alarms. In June 2012, a law went into effect that requires amendments to seller's disclosure forms in purchase and sale agreements to ensure that the responsibility for placement of carbon monoxide alarms is that of the seller.
  • As of January 1, 2013 ALL buildings that are classified as residential occupancies (including rentals homes, duplexes, apartments, etc.) must be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms, with the exception of owner-occupied, single-family residences occupied before July 26, 2009.
Click here to view a detailed report of Washington's carbon monoxide alarm laws.