CSAC Bulletin Article

Preventing Balcony Collapse: New Regs Now In Effect

February 9, 2017

The California Building Standards Commission (Commission) recently approved emergency regulations in response to the 2016 balcony collapse in Berkeley, California. The regulations take effect immediately and seek to prevent future failures of balconies and similar structures such as exterior stairs and walkways.

Findings from an ad hoc subcommittee created in response to the Berkeley balcony collapse prompted emergency regulations which the Commission approved on January 27, 2017 –three years earlier than implementation would have occurred under the regular code adoption cycle. According to the Commission, “immediate action” is warranted to prevent another tragedy, given the “convincing data about the magnitude of hidden conditions that may exist in exterior elevated elements, and which may be subject to potential for failure.”

The regulations include more stringent standards related to the waterproofing of balconies and other exterior elevated walking surfaces in residential occupancies, hotels, state-owned buildings and public schools. Specifically, moisture barrier systems must now provide for cross-ventilation and drainage of trapped water. Such moisture barrier systems must be inspected and approved before they can be concealed. The new regulations further stipulate that while property owners are responsible for the ongoing maintenance of balcony structures, “the building official shall have the authority to require a building or structure to be reinspected.”

To ensure proper compliance, CSAC encourages county building officials to review the new regulations and confer with their county counsels.

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