Oak Park building code changes ease up on sprinkler requirements

Developer concerns lead to less restriction

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek reported Monday that Oak Park is on its way to finalizing its building code updates, but this time around restrictions have eased.

The village's building and property standards department have spent significant time re-working the village's building and fire codes, among others, to get them in line with national standards. The initial suggestions however got some backlash from those in the real estate and development community.

The major issue in the many months of recent discussions relates to sprinkler requirements for new construction and building renovations. Multiple community forums were held and as a result of the feedback, the village has agreed to back off some of its initial suggestions.

Most notably is the initial suggestion that any renovation done in commercial buildings in work areas larger than 3,500 square feet required fire sprinklers to be installed. That suggestion now only applies to projects where 75 percent of the wall and ceiling surfaces are altered or newly constructed.

For commercial buildings with residential occupancy above, the requirements apply to when 50 percent of the wall and ceiling surfaces are altered or new construction occurs. The difference there is the life-safety element of having people residing in the building.

The code updates, which are still a work-in-progress, also will not require fire sprinkler systems for additions or alterations of existing one-and-two family residential buildings. Steve Witt, the village's director of building and property standard, said there was some confusion about this before, so the revised code focuses on clarification so people have a clear understanding of the requirements.

"We're trying to relax the requirements to make it a simpler calculation," Witt said.

The code changes will also do away with the requirement to require automatic fire sprinklers in buildings of four or more residential units where renovation is only undergoing 50 percent of the building's floor area.

Sprinkler requirements for single or double family homes are only required with brand new construction or when the demolition involves more than 50 percent of the home.

"The changes to the fire code area really a reaction from the public hearings," Witt said. "I'm going to guess there will be more discussion over the next month."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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bonehead from RF  

Posted: June 14th, 2014 11:16 AM

I would make this a bigger story. Here is a local government responding to citizens seeking a common sense policy. In RF, a heavy-handed fire sprinkler policy remains a huge burden for its residents. The trustees seem hostage to the fire chief on this rather than listening to residents and acknowledging reasonable standards.

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