A Simple Guide to Los Angeles Building Codes

A Simple Guide to Los Angeles Building Codes

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Los Angeles building codes are construction and building management guidelines that aim to protect the safety, health, and welfare of occupants and the community. 

The building codes regulate design, alterations, and maintenance procedures for all structures within Los Angeles County. The laws enforced by the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) provide a limit of 30 days to comply if you are found in violation.

Amendments to the California Building Codes

Los Angeles building codes adopt the California Building Codes with slight modifications. These laws range from the existing building codes to plumbing, electrical, and mechanical codes. They help to prevent the development of unsafe buildings and remedy the risks posed by such existing buildings.

Use and Occupancy Code

The use and occupancy building standards codes classify buildings in occupancy groups. Every room or space designed to be used and occupied should comply with all of the requirements outlined for the building’s intended purpose. 

These include assembly (Groups A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, and A-5), business (Group B), educational (Group E), factory and industrial (Groups F-1 and F-2) residential (Groups R-1, R-2, R-2.1, R-3, R-3.1, and R-4.), and high hazard (Groups H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, and H-5) among others.

General Building Height and Area Limitations

Building height guidelines in chapter 5 of the LA building codes stipulate building heights, the number of stories, and the building area in sq. ft. 

Sections 504 and 506 lay down the exact height in feet for buildings based on occupancy classification, type of construction, and the zoning.

The four parts of Los Angeles building code you will need to understand to determine your building’s height include Height District (1, 2, 3, 4), Special Height Districts (L, VL, XL)  Zones (Residential and Commercial), and Specific Plans (Baseline Hillside Ordinance, Mulholland Scenic Corridor).

Each zone gives you the base Max Height. Height districts increase maximum building Height and FAR (floor-area ratio) of a given zone. Special height districts decrease the height – so if your property is in a special zone, then that alters the height requirements as well.

Fire and Smoke Protection Code

The fire and smoke protection regulations standards in chapter 7 state the requirements for your building materials, assemblies and systems to bolster its fire resistance. Apart from improving fire resistance of the individual structure, the codes aim to reduce the risk of fire spreading between structures. 

The building systems guide on fire resistance ratings and procedures for testing and compliance is listed under ASTM E119 or UL 263. In Chapter 9 the code outlines the protection systems guide on the installation, maintenance and operation of a building’s fire systems, per the California Fire Code. You can access the code here.

Energy Conservation Code

The Los Angeles energy efficiency code sets the requirements for energy conservation in buildings in line with part 6 title 24 of the California Code. In part, that entails compliance with solar energy installation requirements. 

Alongside that, you will need to comply with the California Code title 24 part 5, which compels owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet to measure and report their building’s yearly energy consumption data.

Green Building Code

The Los Angeles green building code emphasizes the need for sustainable building design and construction to reduce the environmental impact of the structure. The green building code is covered in detail in chapter IX section 9 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

Electrical Code

The current LA electrical code includes the 2017 amendments plus the 2016 California Electrical Code. It similarly borrows from the 2014 National Electrical Code. The code stipulates wiring methods and materials, junction boxes, outlet, type AC, FC, and FCC cabling and equipment general use, among others. Read the full code here.

Los Angeles Plumbing Code

The plumbing code guides on the safe design, installation, and repair of plumbing systems. This code additionally features regulations on plumbing materials, fire sprinklers, swimming pool piping, rainwater piping and underground fire protection piping, among other aspects of a building’s plumbing. You can find more details in chapter IX section 4 of the Municipal Code.

Elevator Code

The elevator code is part of the Los Angeles building accessibility regulations. Compliance requirements include those found in the Elevator Safety Orders of the California Code of Regulations. Among other requirements, elevators need to be in an accessible route and should remain usable as long as the building is occupied. Multifamily building elevators should have accommodations for a wheelchair. Read the code here.

Los Angeles Mechanical Code

These codes for the city of Los Angeles regulate the installation, repair, and maintenance of mechanical building equipment from refrigeration to air conditioning, heating, and ventilation. The laws provide a comprehensive guide on the construction and design and the material quality needed for the equipment. 

Existing Building Code

The existing Los Angeles building code borrows from the California Building Standards Code. The latter features appropriations from the 2015 International Existing Building Code of the International Code Council. These regulations touch on the alteration, repairs, and design of historic buildings and other existing commercial or residential buildings.

Compliance with the Los Angeles building codes can help to safeguard the life and health of occupants and the public. The requirements in these chapters can also help you attain efficiency in the construction and management of your building and provide the needed occupant comfort.

Discover how to get your HVAC systems compliant with LA Building Code and reduce energy costs by 30% using UFAD