Most cities adopt the International Building Code, which sets minimum and comprehensive guidelines for all aspects of building, safety and fire standards. They are developed by the International Code Council, which was established in 1994 as a nonprofit to develop “a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes.”
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the set of codes at state and local levels, although communities may revise or adapt them. Nationally, the codes are updated every three years. But municipalities often tweak language or change requirements more frequently, building and fire officials say.
Arvada City Council is scheduled to review Arvada’s building and residential codes later this year, said Brita Van Horne, Arvada’s chief building officer. The city, Van Horne said, is expected to adopt the 2015 International Building Code sometime next year, which requires homes to have an egress escape for all sleeping rooms, basements and habitable attics. During this process the city may choose to adapt all requirements or amend them, including egress escape requirements for existing homes.
Here is what has happened to the codes in Arvada since 1981:
In 1981, the city adopted the 1979 Uniform Building Code, which required all sleeping rooms below a fourth story in homes built since January 1981 to have at least one operable window or exterior door for approved emergency egress. Basements — whether finished or not — built since 1981 needed one emergency exit, either a window or door.
In late 2007, the city adopted the 2006 International Residential Code and kept the requirement that all sleeping rooms in new homes must have at least one operable emergency exit. Each basement bedroom must have an egress window or exterior door. If the basement is unfinished, it needs at least one egress exit. All basements — whether finished or not — must have one egress window. Any additions to existing homes require homeowners to bring the structure up to current safety standards.
At the same time, the council adopted the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code, which sets guidelines for keeping homes and property maintained, specifically in Arvada’s older neighborhoods. That meant if a home were being sold, or a transfer of ownership were taking place, a homeowner would have to update to current safety standards for any recorded code violations. If the city did not have a record of the complaint or violation, the home could still be sold without any updates.
On July 12, 2010, the city council repealed the transfer of ownership clause that required a homeowner to update to current safety standards if the city knew about any code violations. It also excluded homes built before that meeting from having to install an egress window or door anywhere in the home, unless they were being remodeled.
Much of Arvada’s version of the 2006 adopted International Residential Code is in effect today. And since 1981, all houses built in Arvada have been required to have the egress windows.
New construction, under the 2010 council action, continues to have to meet current safety and building standards, which require all sleeping rooms and finished or unfinished basements, and basement bedrooms, to have at least one operable egress opening.
Commercial structure requirements for sprinklers and smoke alarm systems are based on a complex combination of factors such as building occupancy, size and the year it was built. Fire officials both nationally and on a local level recommend installing a sprinkler system for an added level of protection, regardless of whether the code calls for it.