Bellingham permit officials adopting new construction codes

The city of Bellingham will adopt the 2012 series of international construction codes, including the International Building Code, International Residential Code, International Mechanical Code, and the International Fuel Gas Code, according to an announcement from the city’s permit center.

The code adoption is required by Washington state law. It will take effect on July 1.

Officials said changes to the code cycle are less dramatic than other changes that have been made in recent years.

Some of the changes noted by city permit officials include:

– Smoke alarms within college dormitories must now be connected to the building’s fire alarm system.

– Common areas, mechanical rooms and laundry rooms in dormitories now require smoke alarms.

– Listed wireless smoke alarms are now allowed in both new and existing buildings.

– Guard rails within apartment dwelling units which are no more than 3 stories above grade, may now be reduced from 42″ in height to 36″.

– Glazing within 5′ of bathtubs, showers, etc. now must be safety glazing.

– The requirement for safety glazing at stair landings has been reduced from 60″ to glazing within 36″ of the landing.

– Where provisions of IBC Chapter 34 (existing buildings) conflict with other codes, it is now clear that Chapter 34 governs.

Officials said that most changes are meant to clarify existing requirements rather than impose new requirements. There are, however, exceptions such as wind design methods for commercial buildings. There is also a new requirement for special inspection of fire stopping systems. However, at this time there is no statewide certification process for fire stop inspectors, so the city will not be implementing this requirement in the foreseeable future.

State law also requires the city to adopt the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code. But city officials said that in order to increase the available design and construction choices for local builders, the city is also adopting the 2012 International Plumbing Code as a pre-approved alternate to the Uniform Plumbing Code.

Due to a choice of plumbing codes being available, officials said they want local plumbers to know that they cannot “mix and match” between the two codes. They must pick one code or the other, and design and install the plumbing system entirely to that code.

The city plans to put a system in place in the near future that will allow a plumbing permit to state which code is being used under that particular permit.

Specific questions regarding the new codes can be directed toward Jim Tinner with the city of Bellingham, at or 360-778-8307.

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