Changes Coming to Bismarck City Building Codes

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BISMARCK, ND - Every three years, building codes across the country are updated.

The process starts with the International Code Council, made up of experts in construction fields and code enforcement.

The council helps develop an International Building Code to keep up with new construction methods.

From there, the state adopts a statewide building code. Now, local jurisdictions are looking over the state code to accommodate local conditions.

The Building Inspections Division of Community Development is taking a look at the state code and deciding on local amendments.

Community Development Director for Bismarck Ben Ehreth says there's usually a lot of changes between state and jurisdiction based on administrative processes and geographical differences.

While there is a variety of changes to state building codes, Ehreth says most are administrative.

However, he says this time around there are a couple important "life safety" changes being proposed.

The first is a difference in egress window height. State code states egress windows must be a 48 inches from the floor.

Bismarck jurisdiction is proposing windows be 44 inches from the floor to make it easier for emergency service providers to get in and out of a home with equipment.

Another difference is a change in fire separation between buildings. This separation determines the minimum distance between buildings.
The Bismarck jurisdiction is proposing residential structures match commercial structures at 10 feet apart. Ehreth says this will help keep fire from spreading from building to building.

"Creating a safer environment for homeowners and not only the homeowners but also folks who are responding to emergencies, particularly fires, those are certainly things we are concerned about protecting and preserving," Ehreth says.

Ehreth says these changes would affect people working on new construction or remodeling projects who haven't applied for a building permit yet.

However, he says building codes impact everyone in the community.

"Anybody using or occupying a building. So, everybody, in some way, shape or form, are impacted by this. Whether visiting new stores or restaurants or a new home they may live in or rehabilitation of their existing home," he says.

The Building Inspections Division of the Bismarck Community Development Department will be holding its first open house as an opportunity to create a dialogue with locals on what changes are being proposed and why.

The Open House will take place December 11th at 2:30 p.m. at the Bismarck Public Works Building.