Emergency Building Code Changes!

Posted on January 27, 2016 

In response to a balcony failure at a four-story apartment building in Berkeley, CA, the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has issued emergency amendments to California Building Code, effective January 30, 2017.  The International Code Council has also proposed related amendments for inclusion into the 2018 edition of the IBC and IEBC.   

Investigation into the June 16, 2015 balcony collapse by the City of Berkeley concluded that inadequate waterproofing at the balcony had allowed wood structural members to decay.  An investigation by the California Contractors State License Board subsequently concluded that in addition to a lack of appropriate waterproofing, improper materials substituted by the contractor also contributed to the collapse, which killed six people and injured seven more.

At exterior balconies and elevated walkways where structural framing is protected by an impermeable moisture barrier, the emergency building code amendments dictate that construction documents must include details of all elements of the waterproofing system, including manufacturer’s installation instructions, and that waterproofing systems must be inspected and approved before they are concealed.  Wood structural members at exterior balconies and elevated walkways that do not include an impermeable moisture barrier must be constructed of appropriate preservative-treated or naturally durable wood.  Ventilation must be provided beneath balconies and elevated walkways where framing is enclosed, and the required load-bearing capacity of exterior balcony elements has been increased.

GTG Consultants always recommends that a licensed architect or engineer, along with a qualified envelope consultant, review the installation of common exterior-envelope failure points in the field, in an effort to mitigate the harmful effects of water infiltration on a building's structural integrity and longevity, and minimize quality of life concerns and safety risks for building occupants.