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Navigating the Ohio Building Code Changes: A Comprehensive Overview Introduction

At Tec, we understand the importance of staying up to date with the latest building codes and regulations. Recently, the Ohio Board of Building Standards made a significant decision that will shape construction standards in our state for years to come. They adopted the 2024 Ohio Building, Mechanical and Plumbing Codes, a move that involves incorporating the 2021 International Codes with Ohio-specific amendments. These changes, effective from March 1, 2024, require a diligent effort to comprehend and integrate seamlessly into our designs.

As consulting engineers, we are fully invested in understanding these code changes. Our commitment to compliance with these code changes means that we not only grasp these new regulations but also share how they will be integrated into our engineering designs. In this blog post, we'll provide an overview of these important changes, including excerpts from an interview with Tim Pool, PE, RCDD, Tec’s Director of Engineering, to ensure that you are well-informed about the latest developments that affect your projects and our dedication to delivering safe and compliant solutions.

This blog post will also serve as a general outline for future publications from Tec about code changes you need to know for specific major construction project types. Higher education, multi-family residential, commercial, municipal, and industrial buildings, and EV Charging locations are a few examples of project types particularly affected, and we will address these code changes in our future posts. However, for now we will focus on a general overview of the MEP and building code changes and how they will affect our engineers, clients, and the general public.

Impacts on Engineering

Since our firm has been providing engineering services in several other states for many years, our lead engineers are accustomed to the International Code and understand the implications these changes will have in Ohio. Tim Pool commented on the recent adoption of new codes saying, “I think the adoption of the 2023 National Electrical Code is a good step for Ohio. Many of the new requirements in the 2023 National Electrical Code relate to enhancing safety of the electrical systems through new or expanded technologies which are now available. The new energy code changes, however, will have a significant impact on construction costs. This is because LEED certification and WELL standards encourage more and more open space and windows for the health of the building occupants, while the Energy Code is requiring a better thermal envelope and glazing. This can be achieved but requires more advanced insulation and glazing to ensure compliance. All of this equates to more cost to the owner. Many of these measures should be weighed against the overall health of the construction industry to determine what is best for each region and current market conditions.”

Tim also noted that changes in the building code are one of the reasons he recommends engineering consulting in AEC as a potential career field for young people. He explained that “many young professionals overlook engineering for building design and construction because they are not as familiar with it as a potential career. The beauty of our profession is that these code updates require our engineers and designers to constantly learn and adapt to new standards and designs. For those seeking a non-stagnant, ever-changing career, with opportunities to apply their knowledge, code updates offer a continuous learning environment!”

We understand that changes in building codes can be challenging to keep up with and to navigate for every discipline. That is why Tec holds in-house sessions for our staff focused on code changes and applications. These are led by our expert on code, Tim Pool, who also presents and teaches code for the Electrical League of Ohio. When asked about the addition of new construction types as outlined in the new building codes, Tim said, “it could add confusion at first especially for those who currently struggle with identifying the construction types we have now. Once adopted and implemented, the additional construction types allow professionals to identify the type of construction more accurately and thus the systems required.”

These new construction type classifications include: IVA, IVB, and IVC, which are now referred to as, “Mass Timber,” or defined as “Structural Elements of type IV construction primarily of solid, built-up, panelized or engineered wood products that meet the minimum cross-sectional area measured in the same plane.” The previous IV construction type is now IV HT (Heavy Timber).

Public and Client Implications

Cost of construction is an extremely important factor we are taking into consideration while implementing these new code changes. Tec Inc. Engineering & Design is on the forefront of these new codes and standards and as mentioned is conducting in-house production meetings to educate and train our staff to be familiar with the new requirements. Knowing the requirements will minimize re-design and gaps in plans submitted to the building departments now and will minimize the possibility for a scenario where information was missed on the original design, requiring the client to cover redesign costs. Tec is committed to being experts on these code changes so we can effectively implement best design practices to save our clients’ valuable resources and time.

International Building Code 2021 Changes

  • Escape Rooms Regulations: Puzzle rooms, also known as escape rooms, are now regulated as special amusement areas. This means they have to meet specific safety standards, including special escape routes, to ensure everyone's safety.

  • Fire Wall Consideration: Buildings with fire walls separating different parts are now treated as separate buildings for safety calculations. This helps ensure fire safety in large buildings with multiple sections.

  • Better Classroom Acoustics: Classrooms in certain types of buildings must now have improved acoustics to create a better learning environment. This applies to classrooms with smaller volumes.

  • Simplified Wall Material Rules: Rules regarding the use of certain types of exterior wall materials have been simplified, and some exceptions related to sprinkler systems have been removed.

  • Shipping Containers as Buildings: The code now addresses the use of shipping containers as buildings, with specific guidelines to ensure they meet safety standards.

  • Sprinklers in Parking Garages: Larger open parking garages now require automatic sprinkler systems if they exceed a certain size. This enhances fire safety.

  • Accessibility Standards Update: New accessibility standards from 2017 are now part of the code, ensuring buildings are more accessible to everyone.

  • Parapet Height Requirement: Roofs with certain surfaces now need parapets of a minimum height to prevent objects from being blown off in high winds.

  • Mixed Occupancy Building Safety: Buildings with both assembly spaces and other uses are subject to stricter safety requirements when the total number of people in the assembly spaces is large.

  • Snow Load Maps Update: Maps for calculating snow loads on roofs have been updated to match industry standards for better safety.

  • Rain Load Standards: Standards for dealing with heavy rain on roofs have been updated to align with industry guidelines.

  • Mass Timber Safety: Special inspection requirements have been added to ensure the safety of mass timber structural elements in buildings.

  • Fire Protection Installation: Special inspection is now required for the installation of firestop, fire-resistant joints, and perimeter fire barriers in residential buildings with larger occupant loads.

  • Egress Door Frost Protection: Requirements for frost protection for doors used for emergency exits have been added to ensure they function in cold weather.

  • Concrete Construction Standards: New standards for concrete construction have been added, ensuring higher quality and safety in concrete structures.

  • Mass Timber Buildings: New types of construction allow for taller, larger, and more stories above ground for mass timber buildings, promoting sustainable construction practices.

Mechanical Discipline Changes

  • Dryer Exhaust Safety: To enhance safety, clothes dryer exhaust terminals must now be at least 3 feet away from any building openings. This reduces the risk of potential hazards associated with dryer exhaust.

  • Foam Insulation Standards: Polyurethane spray-applied foam used on the exterior of ducts in attics and crawl spaces must meet specific limits for smoke and flame resistance. This ensures that insulation materials are safe.

  • Dampers Accessibility: Fire and smoke dampers, important for fire safety, are now required to have approved access points for inspection and maintenance. This helps in ensuring they function properly when needed.

  • Refrigerant Updates: Refrigerant tables have been updated to include new refrigerants. This ensures that HVAC systems are designed and maintained with the latest refrigerants in mind.

  • Condensate Management: The code now requires identification markings and restrictions on the discharge of condensate. This helps manage water produced by HVAC systems more effectively.

  • Combination Intake/Exhaust Terminals: The code now allows for approved factory-built intake/exhaust terminations that relax the separation requirement. This can simplify installation without compromising safety.

  • Ventilation Adjustment: Whole-house balanced ventilation systems are now subject to a 30% reduction in the minimum mechanical ventilation requirement. This can improve energy efficiency.

  • Exhaust System Operation: Manicure and pedicure station exhaust systems are now required to operate continuously. This ensures the removal of potentially harmful fumes in these spaces.

  • Grease Duct Cleaning: Grease ducts now require horizontal cleanouts within 3 feet of a horizontal discharge fan. This makes maintenance and cleaning more accessible, reducing fire risks in commercial kitchens.

Electrical Discipline Changes

  • Consolidation of electrical codes for systems over 1,000V which will make it easier to navigate the code and apply it to medium voltage systems.

  • Separation of electrical installations and transformers, or addition of reference to NFPA 70

  • Addition of a new requirement for verification testing of integrated fire protection systems in accordance with NFPA 4

  • Adds an additional trigger for a Group A manual fire alarm system when the occupant load is more than 100 above or below the level of exit discharge.

  • Brings the Ohio code for fire alarms up to national standards through the addition of requirements for low‐frequency alarm signal in Group R‐1 and R‐2 which is already required in NFPA 72.

  • Fire command center requirements for Group F‐1 and S‐1 occupancies greater than 500,000 sq. ft. which add safety measures for large gather places like sports arenas.

Plumbing Discipline Changes

  • Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms: This change clarifies several questions designers had in the past about how to address gender neutral restrooms. The need for this clarification had previously been long unfulfilled, as code standards and requirements didn't reflect what would be accepted by building departments for gender-inclusive bathrooms.

  • Sewer Improvements: There are two new methods for fixing old sewer systems, making it easier to rehabilitate them and prevent problems.

  • Solar Panel Safety: If you have solar panels on your roof, the code now includes guidelines to make sure they don't interfere with important roof vents.

  • Rainwater Harvesting: A new method called CSA B805/ICC 805 Rainwater Harvesting Systems is allowed. This means you can collect and use rainwater for various purposes in your building, which can be more environmentally friendly.

  • Accessible Plumbing: The code now includes plumbing rules from ICC A117.1-2017, a standard for making buildings usable and accessible for all. This ensures that buildings are designed to accommodate people with different needs, including those with disabilities.

Future Blog Posts on Specific Project Types

Although we have broken down the general overview of the code changes that will be going into effect in March of 2024, there is still much more to be discussed. In order to address more specific code changes that will impact building types and specific markets, we will post individual pieces on higher education, multi-family residential, commercial, civic, and industrial buildings, and EV charging locations. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts!

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