A lot of people, like me, feel somewhat inconvenienced by the building permit process and the associated bureaucracy. Some of the code requirements seem excessive and expensive. Other code requirements stand in the way of sustainable technologies. On top of it, not many people like to be told what they can and cannot do.
After our recent electrical incident, my attitude began to change. The ultimate goal for all the nagging on rules and building code regulations is to assure the public’s health, safety and welfare – to prevent life threatening incidents like we just encountered. I am now rather grateful for that.
While our project was still in zoning, we received comments from the plan review and had a week to implement the necessary corrections. Following that week we had our first open plan review meeting – yes, I said first, because we had to return a few times.
Five building disciplines review the plans and commented:
- Structural, and
We had no comments from the electrical review. The few corrections we had regarding the architectural review passed in the first open plan review.
Ventilation was more complicated. The comments we received were easily addressed and passed, but a whole bunch of other issues cropped up during the open plan review. They mainly had to do with inconsistencies between the added third unit in the basement, the architectural plan sheets and mechanical plan sheets. We were given the chance to take care of the corrections during the meeting and finally received the ventilation sign off.
Then structural, for which we had a lot of comments and corrections. Since the porch collapse here in Chicago a few years ago, the requirements and reviews have become much more stringent.
Despite all the corrections, the open plan review did not go well. Our architect, who did the engineering for the back porch replacement, was not familiar with the new requirements and had a lot more work to do. I also needed to provide more information on the load bearing columns in the basement and the planned solar panels on the roof. We had to return a week later, made a few more corrections and finally got the structural sign off.
We also had a lot of plumbing corrections. But it boiled down to three comments that presented major obstacles.
Our storm sewer that connects to the roof downspout runs through the building. Chicago plumbing code requires that the storm sewer is run as a separate line and only can be connected to the sanitary sewer immediately before it exits the building (Chapter 18-29-1104.2). This means that we have to add another 70 feet of cast iron soil pipe, which will cost us a buck or two.
We will have to add a pressure booster system to our incoming water main (Chapter 18-29-604.7). The city’s old water mains are mostly cast iron compared to ductile iron that is commonly used in the suburbs. Ductile iron can take much more pressure. That is why a lot of household in the burbs have a pressure reducing valve. We, on the other hand, need to boost the pressure in the building to assure adequate water supply up to the second floor – says the building code.
The real kicker was, though, that we are required to upgrade our incoming 1 inch water service to 1 ½ inch (Chapter 18-29-604.7). This carries a price tag of $10,000 to $15,000 alone. Something we had not put in our budget, and something that completely freaked me out!
Our existing 1 inch water service is a relatively new copper line with a shut-off valve and meter vault in the parkway. It should last another hundred years! Plus we have planned for all sorts of water conservation measures in the building, such as low flow fixtures.
Common sense tells me that the 1 inch water service should suffice for our three units considering all the low flow fixtures. But there are no provisions in the code that take water conservation measures into account. It looks like we are stuck with the code required upgrade and the associated price tag.