New Approved Legislation and Amendments

The City Council approved an amendment to the 2015 Seattle Building Code allowing Art Gallery spaces less than 3000 square feet in size to remain or be classified as an Mercantile occupancy from an Assembly-3 occupancy. We collaborated with the Office of Arts and Culture and the Construction Codes Advisory Board to modify the code language of three key areas that would allow Art Galleries of maximum size to be classified as a Mercantile Occupancy instead of an Assembly-3 Occupancy, while maintaining the protections of life safety as intended. We wanted to make it easier for businesses, like art galleries, to utilize their existing spaces.

The City Council also approved legislation for Seattle’s Technical Codes to clarify regulations, adopt amendments consistent with Washington State regulations, and make technical corrections from omissions and errors.

Additionally, City Council approved legislation adopting the 2017 Seattle Electrical Code that provides alignment with the Washington Administrative Code, while incorporating innovative Seattle amendments like setting aside infrastructure space for future electrical vehicle charging stations.

2015 Codes: Vesting FAQs

Are you concerned about whether your permit application will be accepted before the change to the 2015 Seattle codes? Here are some FAQs to help you understand the steps you need to take.

When an I required to compliance with the 2015 codes?
January 1, 2017 is when compliance with the 2015 Seattle codes become mandatory.  Between November 6, 2016 and January 1, 2017, you may choose to use the 2012 or the 2015 codes. You must make your choice clear on the plans you submit. If you choose to comply with the 2015 code, the full suite of applicable 2015 codes will apply to your project.  (You can’t choose the 2015 Seattle Building Code (SBC) and the 2012 Seattle Energy Code (SEC), for example).

How do I get my project vested to the 2012 codes?
You need to successfully complete the intake process and pay the intake fees before close of business on Friday December 30, 2016.  (SBC 101.3.1)

What if the first available intake appointment is in 2017, but I want my project to be vested to the 2012 codes?
Schedule the first available appointment and upload your completed drawings and documents as soon as you can. After you press “SUBMIT TO SDCI,” we will do our best to move your appointment up to a cancellation or an added appointment in this year.  We will assume that you want your project vested to the 2012 codes, if it is submitted before mid-December.

I’m working on a phased project. Which phase vests a project to the 2012 codes?
You need to successfully submit the “complete structural frame” for the entire building in order to vest the building to the 2012 code. (SBC 101.3.1 Exception)

To what code is an initial tenant improvement project usually vested?
Initial tenant improvement projects are vested to the code that applied to the “shell and core” construction permit. To vest, you must submit the initial tenant improvement application no more than 18 months after the date of the final inspection for the shell and core construction. (SBC 101.3.2)

Will changes in the 2015 Seattle Existing Building Code requirements for Substantial Alteration projects affect my project requirements?
Substantial Alteration projects (except for those that are deemed a Substantial Alteration solely because they were changed to a higher hazard occupancy) are required to improve the energy performance of the building envelope (2012 Seattle Existing Building Code (SEBC) 303.1.4; 2015 SEBC 304.1.4). In the 2015 Seattle Energy Code, there is now a “disproportionality exception” that has a cost cap on the required building envelop improvements, of 20% of the project valuation, when using the Thermal Performance Method (2015 SEC C503.8.3).

When can I buy copies of the new codes?
We are working on getting the hard-copy of codes published and don’t have a date yet.  The new codes will likely be available in late December or January.  In the meantime, you have access to the Seattle amendments to the ICC codes on our website.  For the SBC go to our Building Code web page. For other Seattle codes, see our list of codes we enforce.

Which codes are changing?
The 2015 versions of Seattle’s Building, Residential, Existing Building, Energy, Mechanical, Plumbing, Fuel Gas, and Fire Codes have been adopted. The 2005 Boiler Code is currently being updated and amended, but adoption is probably several months away.

Questions? Please contact Steve Burns or Andy Lunde

2015 Code Adoption Update

For the past several months, we have been preparing to adopt the 2015 Seattle codes, including the Building, Residential, Mechanical, and Energy Conservation codes. While we don’t know what the legislative schedule will be, we are expecting to require compliance with the 2015 codes on January 1, 2017.

If we stay on schedule, we will allow complete building permit applications submitted before January 1 to comply with the 2012 codes.  We will require applications submitted after January 1 to comply with the 2015 codes. To be considered under the 2012 codes, your complete, submitted permit application must include all required application materials.  If you have a phased project, your application must include the materials for at least the structural frame; shoring and architectural drawings will not be sufficient.

If you have questions about the legislative schedule, contact Kathleen Petrie at

For questions about which codes apply to your project, contact Steve Burns at

Guardrail Design

According to a study of deck-related injuries during 2003-2007, failing deck rails (guardrails) were the cause of 33 percent of the structural failures that caused a visit to the emergency room.  Failing deck rails caused 26,640 injuries in that 5 year period, nationwide.  The Seattle Building Code (SBC) section 1607.8.1 and Seattle Residential Code (SRC) Table R301.5 both require that guards (the code term now used for guardrails) be designed to resist specific forces that simulate an adult falling against or pulling/pushing on a guard. Guards must be able to resist a 50 pounds per linear foot uniform load and, separately, a 200 pound concentrated load.  You are required to provide a detailed drawing showing the connection of the guard posts to the structure when you submit your permit application.

Design professionals and building owners should not assume that connections designed in the field will have the required strength. Testing has shown that the ½” bolts typically used as connections usually fail.

For most single-family and duplex buildings, if you plan to connect 4” x 4” guard posts on the outside of the deck rim joist, you can use prescriptive connections as an alternative to an engineered design. These prescriptive connection details are available in the Design for Code Acceptance 6 publication by the American Wood Council ( Connecting a guard to the top of a deck typically requires an engineered detail. For larger buildings, we require an engineered connection for guards.  For guidance on engineered designs, see the Guards and Connections White Paper at

If you have an existing wood-framed deck, please note that they deteriorate over time. We recommend that you inspect your deck for rotted framing, guards, and connections this summer and every year.