MAJOR CHANGES TO THE
2012 INTERNATIONAL BUILDING CODE
By Kelly P. Reynolds
THERE WERE 100’s of proposed code changes during the last cycle, all did not get
adopted. With this edition of CODES & STANDARDS I will begin explaining some
of those changes to the 2012 International Building Code. So lets get started...
Definitions have been moved from other locations in the code to Chapter 2.
Defined terms are still listed in their respective chapters but refer back to Chapter 2.
All defined terms are italicized throughout the code to remind users there is a
definition for them.
OCCUPANCY CLARIFICATIONS -
303.1.3 - A room or space used for assembly purposes in Group E is not considered
a separate occupancy. Chapter 11 accessibility and Chapter 10 egress requirements
for assembly occupancies still apply, but the mixed occupancy provisions of
Chapter 5 do not.
303.4 - Casino floor occupancy classification is now clearly A-2, food and drink
consumption, due to the same characteristics of distracting light, sound and unclear
303.3, 306.2 - Commercial kitchens serving large restaurants are now considered A-2
occupancies. Only kitchens with no associated dining areas are to be considered F-1,
such as catering uses. The separation requirement has been eliminated from Table
CARE DEFINITIONS AND REQUIREMENTS REVISED
Comprehensive revisions were made in Chapter 3 to define and clarify medical care,
custodial care and personal care.
Medical care is primarily I-2, where 6 or more people incapable of self-preservation
are receiving care. When they do not exceed five patients, it may be Group R-3 or
regulated by the 2012 International Residential Code. (Editor’s Note: The five or
less patient rules comes from a Medicare rule that lets that number stay in a private
residence for care.)
Custodial care is primarily I-1 (17 or more occupants) and personal care is R-4 (6-16
occupants). All must be capable of self-preservation. Both care definitions are
similar and do not include medical care.
CHAPTER 4- SPECIAL OCCUPANCIES
402 - Open Mall Buildings, first defined in the 2009 IBC and becoming increasingly
popular are now given a variety of changes including the new concept of a open mall
building perimeter line that defines what is within a mall. This section was
reorganized along topics with all egress in 402.8 and all construction 402.3.
407 - Regulations require that were in Chapter 10 regarding patient care suites
proliferating in hospitals are now revised and relocated to 407.
410 - Fly galleries, gridirons and pinrail terms have been consolidated under a new
definition : technical production area. Most of Chapter 10 exit requirements, except
for reference to Table 1015.1, have been relocated to this section. Some smaller
stages are now allowed only one exit.
424 - Children’s play areas, formerly only applicable to covered mall buildings, now
have their own section and regulated regardless of the building in which they are
located. Use of NFPA 289, an alternative to UL 1975, is allowed for testing foam
plastics and pool balls that are commonly used in these play structures.
CHAPTER 5 - HEIGHTS AND AREAS
501.2 - The Fire Official is now allowed to require additional locations for building
ID and the numbers must be maintained.
505.2.2 - Mezzanine egress is now required per Chapter 10 with no special provisions
506.2 - This section has been clarified for three issues: the amount of public way to
be used , the method for measuring available and defining “weighted average”.
This code change eliminated some of the confusion caused by Section 702.1 for fire
separation distance, which only permits the use of the public way to the centerline.
507 REVISIONS - Clarifies the measurement of open area around unlimited area
buildings and their accessory uses. Also, other occupancies are now permitted in
unlimited area building (even H use group) through Section 508.2.
412 & 413 - Shaft enclosure provisions have been relocated, reorganized and
revised under two sections to emphasize vertical openings since shaft enclosure is
just one method to mitigate the hazards to vertical openings.
706.2 - Fire walls are now permitted to use the provisions of NFPA No. 221 for a
double fire wall that can provide complete burnout on the other side of the wall.
That concept has always been required. New provisions now require increased
parapet heights for all fire walls adjacent to sloped roofs. (Did you know that one of
the reasons for firewall parapet heights is so the firefighters can use it as a fire and
heat shield when trying to fight the fire on the other side?)
CHAPTER 10 - MEANS OF EGRESS -
1001.4 - A new reference to the 2012 International Fire Code fire safety and
evacuation plans Sections 401.2 and 404 to provide consistency and to adopt “by
reference” even though the Fire Code may have not been adopted separately.
1004.1.2, Table 1004.1.2 - A new classification for areas without fixed seating
specifically for exhibitions and museums of 30 or more sq. ft. per person.
1005 - Reduced widths for fire sprinklers removed in the 2009 International Building
Code now re-instated only where emergency voice/communications alarm systems are
1005.3.1 - Entire section reorganized and previous Section 1004.4 has been
incorporated as the last sentence in Section 1005.3.1.
1004.5 - Egress convergence in the previous code is now more logically relocated to
1008.1.9.9 - Electromagnetically locked egress doors now permitted with integral
panic hardware due to the fact that they have been tested and listed (UL, etc.) not
available in the 2009 IBC. Note - this specific allowance overrides the general
prohibition in Section 1008.1.10 that doors requiring panic hardware “shall not be
provided with a latch or lock unless it is panic hardware or fire exit hardware”.
1011.2 - Low level EXIT signs for use group R-1 occupancies are back. The
provision first appeared in the 1971 Uniform Building Code. This requirement was
based on the numerous hotel and loss of life fires, including the MGM Grand in Las
Vegas where the corridors became obscured by smoke. These are also thought to be
useful to firefighters to gain egress from the fire floor. EXIT signs above doors
become useless when the room fills with smoke and the first thing obliterated are the
EXIT signs. So why are they mounted over the door? Because the were installed at
the convenience of the electrician.
1012.2 - Handrails and Guards - Transition pieces of continuous handrails are now
permitted to exceed the maximum prescriptive height.
1012.3.1 and 101.8 - Handrail maximum cross section dimension now provided for
1013.1 and 1013.8 - Guard handrails for operable windows located more than 72-inc.
above grade are relocated from Chapter 14. The minimum window sill height for
which a guard is not required has gone from 24-in. to 36-in.
1013.3 - Guard rail height has been reduced from 42-in. to 36-in. in use groups R-2
and R-3 less than three stories to coordinate with the provisions of the IRC.
1021.2 - Exits from stories - - not all exits have to be accessible to all occupants if
there are sufficient exits (not less than two) accessible to all.
1021.2.1 and Table 1021.2 (2) - A new ratio equation is used to determine if a
single exit can serve different occupancies.
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