If asked to explain the process through which new regulations are adopted or amendments made to the California Building Code, most people in the construction industry would understandably be at something of a loss for specifics. Nevertheless, chances are good that at a minimum, they would envision a legislative process that is both complex and protracted.
While this is certainly accurate most of the time, there is at least one scenario in which this legislative process, and the ensuing waiting period for adoption by municipalities and other industry figures is effectively bypassed: emergency regulations.
By way of example, consider how earlier this month, the California Building Standards Commission announced the approval of emergency building standards for immediate enforcement concerning exterior elevated elements, such as balconies, exterior stairways and exterior walkways.
Specifically, these emergency regulations, which were proposed by the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Division of the State Architect-Structural Safety and the CBSC, and cover the construction of EEEs for residential occupancies (hotels/motels, apartments, houses, etc.), public schools and state buildings, call for the following:
- Provision of additional details on construction documents
- Special inspections of EEEs during the course of construction
- Sloped waterproofing surfaces to reduce retention of water
- Increase in structural live loads
- Additional ventilation to the undersides of enclosed EEEs
- The reinstatement of a provision allowing local jurisdictions to inspect when deemed necessary
These emergency regulations were created based on the findings of an EEE subcommittee convened by the CBSC following a horrific balcony collapse accident in Berkeley that resulted in serious and fatal injuries.
These and any other emergency regulations enacted to the CBC are effective for 180 days unless they are extended or steps are taken to formalize their adoption via the rulemaking process.
Here's hoping the foregoing discussion has provided some insight into how quickly things can and do change in California's construction industry. If you are a builder with questions about fulfillment of government contracts or other important issues, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.