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2012 Residential Construction Codes

Every three years, new 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 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 significant revisions but several have been mitigated or revised by Washington amendments

BIAW offered the Code Update 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.

Code Adoption in Final Phase

As the state enters the final phase of the code adoption process, it's important interested parties voice your thoughts, concerns and opinions regarding all the proposed SBCC draft codes.

Deadline to provide public comments is October 23, 2015.

BIAW members are encouraged to offer public comment to the SBCC by:
  • Written Testimony
    Mail comments to SBCC, P.O. Box 41449, Olympia, WA 98504
  • Via Email
    Email SBCC
  • In Person at SBCC Meetings
    Sept. 11: Spokane Fire Department Training Center
    Oct. 16: Department of Enterprise Services Building, Olympia

After the public hearings, the SBCC considers all revisions, proposals and comments before approving the draft codes. Each codes' final version must be submitted to the Code Reviser by December 31, 2015.

Below are the current summaries and proposed actions to each code.

View the International Building Code TAG summary here.

View the International Building Code TAG review table here.

View the International Fire Code TAG summary here.

View the International Residential Code TAG summary here.

View the International Residential Code TAG review table here.

View the Uniform Plumbing Code TAG summary here.

You can read an article that reviews the most significant changes and their impacts in the September issue of Building Insight.

Visit the SBCC website for all rules under consideration.

Furthermore, BIAW is paying special attention to the proposed amendments listed below:

  • Residential Sprinklers
    BIAW is preparing testimony in opposition to the proposed residential sprinkler codes to deliver during the public comment period, which begins September 10. BIAW is looking for your comments and feedback on this issue as well as any other proposals before the SBCC. Our goal is to have a room full of BIAW members ready to testify. If you would like to be included BIAW's codes group email list, please email BIAW Government Affairs and Codes Coordinator Al Audette or contact him at 360-352-7800, ext. 163.
  • Energy Code
    BIAW has voiced concerns with the SBCC's cost estimates for the mandatory installation of an inverter-driven, ductless mini-split heat pump in all new dwellings where the primary heat source is electric zonal unless the capacity is a 2kW/dwelling unit or less. Our projections for installed added costs range from $2,500 to nearly $5,000 for each unit. Note: this item remains in the Chapter 406 "pick list," so the builder could still claim it as an energy credit.
  • Comparison Percentages Under R405.3
    The reduction of the comparison percentages under R405.3 for performance-based compliance.

    97 to 80 percent for less than 1,500 sq. ft.

    89 to 72 percent for 1,500 to 5,000 sq. ft.

    83 to 66 percent over 5,000 sq. ft.

    This is a substantial change and BIAW is seeking your comments regarding the cost and construction impact of this amendment.
  • Energy Credit "Pick List"
    Finally, the most substantial - the energy credit pick list - which increases the energy efficiency credits required under Chapter R406 to:

    2.5 credits for a small dwelling (under 1,500 sq. ft.) up from the current .5 credits

    3.5 credits for medium dwelling units up from current 1.5 credits, and

    4.5 credits for a large dwelling unit (over 5,000 sq. ft.) up from the current 4.5 credits


Current Building 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 IRC matrix detailing every revision, deletion and addition from the 2009 IRC to the 2012 IRC.

View the complete Washington State amendments to the 2012 IRC here.

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

2012 Washington State Energy Code

View the current Washington State Energy Code

View a list of WSEC changes from 2009 to 2012

View the WSEC prescriptive checklist as 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.

  • Comparison Percentages Under R405.3
    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.
  • Comparison Percentages Under R405.3
    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.
  • Comparison Percentages Under R405.3
    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.

View the detailed report of Washington's carbon monoxide alarm laws here.

  Al Audette
Government Affairs and Codes Coordinator
Email Al
360-352-7800, ext. 163