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2019 Year-end Code Review

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

A. Vernon Woodworth FAIA | Life Safety & Code Consulting Service Leader

When Santa leaves coal in your stocking you know what that means! But what does it mean when all the nasties take their coal and power our world with it? It means trouble for all the nice-types who just want to enjoy their egg-nog in their passive sunrooms. Now the egg-noggers are up in arms, asking the nasties to bury their coal back in the ground where it belongs. Where Santa Claus stands on this emerging controversy is unknown.

Yes, it is time for our year-end round up of activity in the code world, where we have been making our list and checking it twice while listening for reindeer hoofs on the roofs (watch the solar panels, please!). Santa failed to deliver what we REALLY wanted, a new energy and stretch code, but we got an I.O.U.. Based on an announcement at the January meeting of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will be in full force and effect as of February 7, 2020. A concurrency period in which applications conforming to the 2009 IECC are filed will end on 8/7/20.

Adoption of the 2018 IECC w/amendments holds few surprises, as changes from the current 2009 IECC are minimal, but energy code adoption has nevertheless caught the attention of environmentalists who have descended upon BBRS public hearings to advocate for the inclusion of a net-zero provision as the basis of a new stretch energy code. The language for this provision originated at the national level where it will be included in the 2021 IECC as an optional appendix. The national language differs from the amendment that has been submitted in Massachusetts as it includes low-rise residential construction. The MA amendment, currently under study by the BBRS Energy Advisory Committee, could be referenced as an option in the next stretch code, to be rolled out with the 10th edition early in 2021.


No coal for the Plumbing Board! Word has it that the elves over at Ashburton Place are working hard on adopting a model plumbing code (either IAPMO or IPC) to replace the homegrown Massachusetts version. The Boston Society of Architects’ Codes Committee has submitted a letter of support to the Board in favor of adoption of the IPC. No timing has been announced for a new Plumbing Code.


We may be asking again next year, as we ask this year and asked last year, where is the update to 521 CMR, the Architectural Access Board regulations? And the answer will still be the same: “in Limbo”. While a recent meeting between Governor Baker and accessibility advocates received positive attention there is no indication that the logjam has been cleared. At issue are (a) the extension of jurisdiction to employee-only areas, and (b) the economic impacts of the 30% threshold triggering full compliance in existing buildings. Some sources believe that the Administration may be willing to trade (a) for a reduction in (b), and that Access Board members are so-far unwilling to budge. This could be the slowest moving chess game on Beacon Hill.


The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is reviewing draft language for a new “Coastal Flood Resilience Zoning Overlay District”. As described on the BPDA website the Overlay will “directly build on the City of Boston’s recent planning efforts, notably the Climate Ready Boston (CRB) initiative and recommendations developed in 2016. CRB is aimed at generating resilient solutions for neighborhoods, infrastructure, and governance that help the city and region prosper and grow in the face of long term climate change.” To this end the CRB “identifies critical infrastructure, facilities, natural resources, and neighborhood populations that are vulnerable to impacts from increased extreme heat and coastal, riverine and stormwater flooding.” Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines, a publication of the BPDA, can be found on their website at

Written by:

A. Vernon Woodworth FAIA

Life Safety & Code Consulting Service Leader

Fitzemeyer & Tocci Associates, Inc.


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