New NC Code Now in Effect

Happy New Year!

With the passing of another New Years Day, those of us practicing in the “First in Flight” state are now wrestling with a new Code. Since July 1st, 2009, designers had the option of using the 2006 NC Codes or the 2009 version. As of January 1st, 2010, the 2006 version is “no more” and compliance with the 2009 NC Code is mandatory.

The good news is that a lot of the Code remains the same, including the overall concepts for uses, allowable area and height, egress, and others. However, some major changes have been incorporated.

In particular, required fire ratings between some occupancies have changed. For instance, the 2006 Code required a 2-hr fire barrier between Business and Mercantile (in certain situations). however, the 2009 version considers them equivalent risks and therefore requires no fire barrier between them. Yeah! For building owners, that can equate to a substantial savings in initial construction, and later if a retail client moves out and an insurance office moves in. Where demising wall upgrades would have been required just a few months ago, none may be required now.

Of course, it’s not all good news. Assembly-2 occupancies (restaurants and nightclubs) are still required to be sprinklered if occupied by 100 or more people. This is uniquely North Carolinian, and while rumors persist that it may be increased back to 300, it is still Code today.

Accessibility is one of the larger issues that has been adjusted in the new Code. The North Carolina Legislature amazingly voted to leave the IBC version of the Accessibility Code intact, and removed our homegrown Volume 1C version. So, we now refer to the Accessibility Code as “Chapter 11”.  Chapter 11 references the ANSI standard, A117.1-03.  In my opinion, this was a welcome move as our accessibility requirements are now in-line with national standards and consistent with laws in adjacent states. Consistency among jurisdictions is ALWAYS a good thing.

Some Accessibility items to be aware of include:

  • Single-user restrooms (one lavatory, one toilet) are required to be slightly larger than previously allowed.
  • Restroom grab bars count increased by one:  a new 18″ vertical grab bar is now required in addition to the previous two horizontal grabs.
  • Break Room sinks do not automatically require knee space underneath, although the height remains at 34″ which continues to eliminate conventional dishwashers (ADA dishwashers are available, but are typically not available off-the-shelf).
  • 20% rule is still in effect for existing buildings (see earlier post).
  • Many, many other minor tweaks and tugs.

Bottom line is that there is a new Code in effect for all projects in North Carolina.  Some rules have loosened, some tightened, but most have remained unchanged.

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