Disclaimer: the answers below are staff opinions only and not official interpretations by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards.

Using this File: Click on the question below to get the answer.


Chapter 1 Administration

Chapter 2 Definitions

Chapter 3 Use and Occupancy Classification


Chapter 9 Fire Protection Systems

(Also see Chapter 34 for existing structures)

Chapter 13 Energy Conservation

(Also see Chapter 34 for existing structures)

Chapter 34 Existing Structures

(IEBC 2009)



Chapter 115AA Stretch Energy Code

Also see Stretch Energy Code FAQ's


Chapter 1 Administration

Q. When the did 8th edition of the base building code become effective?

A. The 8th edition became effective August 6, 2010 with a six month concurrency period with the 7th edition.  The 7th edition became effective September 1, 2008 with a 6-month concurrency period in which either the 6th or the 7th edition could be used until the end of February 2009.  
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Q. How does one file for a building permit for state owned buildings?

A. The application and instructions for the mandatory electronic filing process can be found at www.mass.gov/dps

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Q. Can building plans be submitted electronically with electronic signatures and seals of registered professionals?

A. The Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors approved a policy for these licensed professionals, with respect to
digital and handwritten signatures Digital and Handwritten Signatures that is similar to what other states are doing and industry professionals are using. For answers to other questions you may have on this subject you may send your questions to the Board at Division of Professional Licensure Contact Information

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Q. Can a building department require electronic plans, seals, and signatures instead of, or in addition to, paper plans?

A. No. Although electronic seals and signatures are now allowed by the Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors there are many licensed professionals who still do not have the capability to produce either electronic plans or seals and signatures. However, for those licensed professionals who can produce paperless plans, they should contact the local building department to see if all-electronic submissions are allowed.

Q: Permit for cabinet work?: Does kitchen cabinet and countertop replacement work require a building permit?

A:  No, unless work regulated by the building code is involved, such as wall openings or wall reconfiguration. The code considers cabinets and countertops as finish work similar to wood trimming and painting.  Note, however, that electrical and plumbing permits may be needed even though a building permit isn’t needed if, for example, new outlets are added, a sink is moved, or a dishwasher added.

Q. Permit for fire alarm work: When is a building permit (Section 105) required when work is done on the building fire alarm control panel (FACP)?

A.  A permit is required when the FACP is being replaced or additional hardware is required that affects the performance or compatibility of the FACP.  However, a permit is not required for replacement of hardware required for normal maintenance or repair.

Q. Building maintenance: Although there is no maintenance language in the 8th edition identical to the 7th edition can a building official still cite an owner for lack of building or structure maintenance.

A.  Yes. There are three sections (MA amendments R102.4.5, R102.7.2, and R102.7.3) which a building official can use to make such citation. Additionally under Matters not Provided For (Section 104.10.2) building life safety maintenance issues can be addressed.

Q. ISO audits: What are the benefits of my community participating in ISO (Insurance Services Organization) building code effectiveness audits?

A. See ISO Building Code Effectiveness pdf format of Website Update_38_ISO_Ratings_(approved by ISO legal).p

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Chapter 2 Definitions

Q. Registered design professional: Can a non-MA registered design professional practice in MA? 

A.  For guidance contact the appropriate MA licensing board. For example, the boards that oversee MA architects and engineers are found at www.mass.gov/dpl .

Q. Aggregate building area: How do we measure the aggregate area of a building? 

A.  Aggregate building area is the area contained within the perimeter of the inside surface of exterior walls. For the purpose of computing area for fire sprinkler requirements refer to Chapter 9 or Chapter 51 (section R3).


Chapter 3 Use and Occupancy Classification


Q: Assisted Living classification: What is the use group classification for assisted living facilities with more than 16 persons that is licensed by the Executive Office of Elderly Affairs.

A: Per Massachusetts General Law Chapter 19D Section 18(d) (see below), all assisted living facilities that are licensed by the Executive Office of Elderly Affairs must be classified as a residential use group.  Since the building contains multiple units, the use group classification for this type of facility is Use Group R-2. 

M.G.L. Chapter 19D Section 18: Classification of assisted living residences

(a) Assisted living residences shall not be subject to the provisions of sections twenty-five B to twenty-five H, inclusive, section fifty-one and sections seventy E to seventy-three B, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and eleven or the seventh full paragraph of section nine of chapter forty A of the General Laws. 

(b) No person or residential facility offering, providing or arranging for the provision of assistance with or supervision of instrumental activities of daily living only shall be required to obtain certification under this chapter or a license pursuant to section seventy-one of chapter one hundred and eleven of the General Laws. 

(c) For the purposes of this chapter, and any other general or special law classifying real estate property for the purpose of taxation, and notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-seven C of chapter twenty-nine of the General Laws, a municipality shall classify the portion of any building operated as an assisted living residence in the same category as property held or used for human habitation. 

(d) Regardless of the designation of an assisted living residence as a residential, institutional or other use under any zoning ordinance, assisted living residences certified under this chapter shall be regarded as residential uses for the purposes of the state building code and shall be so regarded by the building inspectors of each city and town in the commonwealth


Chapter 9 Fire Protection Systems

Q. Standpipe for low rise parking structures: What type of standpipe system is required per 780 CMR for a low rise open parking structure with a floor level of the highest story located more than 30 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access?§905.3.1 Exception 3 allows Class I manual dry standpipes in open parking garages, but requires a closer spacing of hose valve locations.  §905.8 (MA amendment) states that all standpipe systems shall be automatic wet.  Exception 1 (MA amendment) states that when approved by the fire official, an automatic dry or semi-automatic dry standpipe system shall be permitted in areas subject to freezing.  (Note it does not allow a manual dry as allowed by §905.3.1).  The apparent conflict is that §905.3.1 exception 3 allows a Class I Manual dry system with reduced spacing while §905.8 exception 1 only allows automatic dry or semi-automatic dry systems.  The same conflict seems to exist in the 7th edition.  Refer to §905.2 exception 1 and §905.3.1 exception 2. The 6th edition clearly allowed Class I manual dry standpipe systems in low-rise open parking structures per §914.2.11 Exception 1.


Q. Sprinklers in townhouses: When are sprinklers required in new townhouses? 

A.  All new townhouses (which by definition have 3 or more units) require sprinklers. For the sprinkler requirements of the specific townhouse design see either Table 903.2 in the Base Volume or Section R313.1.1 in the Residential Volume.

A. 780 CMR §905.3.1 Exception 3 (which allows Class I manual dry standpipes in open parking garages, but requires a closer spacing of hose valve locations as required for Class II Standpipes) is more specific than the general provision of Section 905.8. Therefore based on 780 CMR §102.1, a Class I Manual dry Standpipe system is permitted by 780 CMR.  It was noted that the application of §905.3.1 Exception 3, by extension through the installation standard, is only possible when the local fire department has the pumper capability to achieve the maximum demand identified by the standard.  For a garage which requires 4 or more hose outlets per floor due to size and the Class II Standpipe spacing criteria, the minimum demand of 1,250 gpm @100 psi residual at the most remote outlet is required.  While most modern pumpers will handle this demand, some jurisdictions may not have the necessary equipment.  Therefore, consultation with the fire department is necessary to determine the ability of the apparatus and confirm the standard compliant manual dry system is achievable per NFPA14.

Q. Sprinklers in mixed uses: Does ‘note a.’ of Table 903.2 apply to sprinkler requirements of all mixed uses?

 A. No. ‘Note a.’ applies to mixed uses only if the mixed use contains either an I-Use or an R-Use.  For example, ‘note a.’ does not apply to a mixed use of A-2 and F-1 or A-3 and E; but does apply to a mixed use of R-2 and B.

Chapter 13 Energy Conservation

Q. What were the 6th edition base code energy conservation requirements?

A. The 6th edition base code energy conservation requirements were in chapters 13 and 34.

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Q. What were the 7th edition base code energy conservation requirements?

A. The 7th edition base code energy conservation requirements were in chapters 13 and 34 and referred to the IECC 2006, and the IECC 2007 Supplement.

Q. What are the 8th edition base code energy efficiency requirements?

A. The 8th edition base code energy conservation requirements are found in chapters 13 and 34 and refer to the IECC 2009.  Also, see chapter 115AA for stretch energy code requirements, where locally adopted.

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Q. What is the 'stretch' energy code?

A. MGL Chapter 169 requires that a municipality seeking to be a Green Community adopt an advanced energy conservation code for buildings. In order to meet the requirement of MGL c. 169, the BBRS, along with the state’s energy and environmental agencies, collaborated with regional and national code experts to develop one ‘stretch code’ that is consistent across the state.  The stretch energy code provides these optional advanced requirements of energy efficiency that municipalities can choose to adopt in order to benefit from having Green Community status.

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Chapter 34 Existing Structures

(IEBC 2009)


Q. Vertical gravity load-carrying component: In Chapter 2 of the IEBC the definition of "substantial structural damage" contains the phrase "The capacity of any vertical gravity load-carrying component..." Does this phrase refer to a component carrying vertical load?

A. No. The reference is to a component oriented in the vertical direction, such as a column or wall. Per the ICC Technical Staff "The intent is to focus on columns and bearing walls (and for lateral Substantial Structural Damage, on frames and shear walls), and not on typical roof or floor framing, diaphragms, and collectors. The purpose of the definition is to determine whether damaged members should simply be repaired or replaced, or whether a whole structural upgrade should be triggered as well. The general theory is that the bias is toward "repair only." Upgrade beyond that should be triggered only where the damage affects the building globally (as represented by loss of multiple columns) and where repair alone would end up maintaining a grossly inadequate structure."


Q .Roof insulation: What is required for insulation when re-roofing?

A.  When the roof is part of the building thermal envelope, insulation may need to be installed after the existing roof material is removed per section 101.4.3 of the IECC 2009. Exception 4 allows re-roofing without the addition of insulation, but only if the sheathing is not exposed.  When the sheathing is exposed, insulation according to section 101.4.3 ‘shall conform to…new construction’. However, the building official has the authority to consider and accept alternate insulating systems* per section 102.1, one of which may be to require that the ceiling cavity be filled with insulation meeting R 3.5 per inch.

‘102.1 This code is not intended to prevent the use of any material, method of construction, design or insulating system not specifically prescribed herein, provided that such construction, design or insulating system has been approved by the code official as meeting the intent of this code.’


Q. Roofing replacement: The 7th edition required replacing the entire roofing to meet code for new construction if more than 25% of the roofing was damaged or otherwise.  Is this still required in the 8th edition?

A.  No. However,in damaged areas it may be necessary to remove undamaged roof covering to a valley, ridge, eave, or other, to create an adequate repair.


Q. Replacement windows:  For buildings in wind borne debris regions do replacement windows need to comply with the code for new construction?

A.  Yes, to the extent practicable.  This is considered a Level 1 alteration, which is defined as ‘the removal and replacement or covering of existing materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures using new materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures that serve the same purpose’.  So, for example compliance to the International Energy Conservation Code 2009, section 101.4.3 would dictate energy conservation requirements, since a ‘purpose’ of the original windows was energy conservation.   However, in general the windows need not comply with the wind borne debris requirements since this was not likely a ‘purpose’ of the original windows. However, if the existing building project is significant whereby it is essentially considered ‘new’ construction, then it may be reasonable for the building official to invoke wind borne debris protection of openings.  In this case, an analysis of the structure of the building, using an assumption of either a ‘closed’,  ‘open’, or ‘partially enclosed’ building per ASCE-7, will help the owner decide if adding opening protection is a cost effective option.


Q. Duct Testing: Is duct leakage testing required on new duct runs in existing building projects?

A. In general, yes.  However, this guidance may not be economically or technically reasonable in certain projects based on feedback from industry experts.  Two examples are provided:

Example A, Testing not required: Enclosing a small rear deck area.  A small room that may require only short branch runs would not require duct testing on the old system or new branch runs*. Short lengths of new duct can prove problematic to test.

Example B, Testing required: Finishing an area above a 3 car garage. An area of this size could typically require installing a small main supply, return duct trunk line and multiple branch duct runs. In this case the new work would need to be tested for leakage per the code guidelines*.

Typically, in example B, the easiest way to do this would be to test the new ductwork BEFORE it is tied to the original duct system of the dwelling and prior to enclosure in soffits or sheetrock, which would block access for repairs.

*Again and with respect to both examples provided above, all new duct installations require sealing and a thorough visual inspection, by the duct installer and eventually by the building official, prior to installation of any insulation.


Q. Sprinklers for change of occupancy via Work Area method: An existing non-sprinklered 30,000 sq ft factory (F-1 Use) single story building is proposed to change 13,000 square feet to a restaurant (A-2) Use. There is no rated separation between the existing and proposed use. Are sprinklers required?

A. Change of occupancy is addressed in Chapter 9 of the MA amended International Existing Building Code 2009 (IEBC). Section 912.1.1.1 ultimately brings the reader to Section 704.2.2 for sprinkler requirements but for this example sprinklers may not be required by this section depending on whether all criteria of 704.2.2 are met. However, section 912.2.1 does require sprinklers in the A-2 Use, and since the building has no rated separations then sprinklers are required throughout the building*. 

*When there is an apparent conflict of requirements then Section 102.1 would require that the more specific or restrictive provisions apply.  Therefore, if sprinklers were not required by Section 912.1.1.1 and its default to Chapters 8 and 7 of the MA amended IEBC, but are required by Section 912.2.1 then this latter section governs.

It is important to note that Section 912.1.1.1 by way of reference to Chapter 8 addresses many issues beyond automatic sprinklers that may be applicable in this new A-2 space such as means of egress, accessibility, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and structural. 


Q. Sprinklers for change of occupancy via Work Area method: Can you answer the same question as above but assume there is a rated separation between the two uses?

A. Basically the same logic is followed except that if a separation exists in accordance with Section 912.1.1.2 then a sprinkler system would only need to be installed in the Group A-2 portion of the building, per the requirements of Section 912.2.1. 


Q. Change of occupancy and work area: Does a change of occupancy necessarily involve a work area if the layout of the building, including but not limited to; locations of windows and doors, exits, main partition walls, etc. does not change?

A.  No. In the case of a change of occupancy classification it is possible that no space has been reconfigured, therefore there is no “reconfiguration of space” and thereby no “Work Area”. However, since Section 912.1.1 requires compliance with Chapter 8 throughout (this will vary based upon separation provided in accordance with Section 912.1.1.1 and 912.1.1.2) then by default the applicable provisions of Chapter 8 will need to be considered for the entire area involved in the change of occupancy. 


Q. Work area and reconfigured space: What is reconfigured space?

A. “Reconfigured space” though not specifically defined is typically associated with floor plan changes such as the removal, addition or relocation of a door or wall.  This can also include spaces reconfigured, for example, due to movement or inclusion of mechanical duct work that affects the layout of the building.    However, in some cases a ‘space’ may be modified but it is not within the intent of the code to consider this ‘reconfigured space’.   For example, the addition of new equipment or fixtures like a HVAC or a smoke detection system is a level 2 alteration, without necessarily a work area.  However, if the HVAC system requires floor plan changes like rerouting of exits, then work area considerations must be addressed.  This code is intended to encourage the reuse and improvement of buildings and the work area for a project must be approved by the building official.


Q. Change of occupancy and work area: Does a change of occupancy necessarily involve a work area if the layout of the building, including but not limited to; locations of windows and doors, exits, main partition walls, etc. does not change?

A.  No. In the case of a change of occupancy classification it is possible that no space has been reconfigured, therefore there is no “reconfiguration of space” and thereby no “Work Area”. However, since Section 912.1.1 requires compliance with Chapter 8 throughout (this will vary based upon separation provided in accordance with Section 912.1.1.1 and 912.1.1.2) then by default the applicable provisions of Chapter 8 will need to be considered for the entire area involved in the change of occupancy.


Q. Work Area for damage to a 3 unit R-2: Fire damage of a 3 unit R-2 requires replacement of interior sheet rock and replacement of some or all of the wiring and plumbing. The interior layout will remain the same, what is the ‘work area’?

A.  There is none. This would be considered a Level 1 alteration and possibly Level 2 with regard to installation of a new system or extension of a system.  However, if the new system or extension of the system does not reconfigure the space then there is no “work area.”  Therefore, requirements, like sprinklers, that are invoked based on work area, would not be applicable.


Q. New window and work area:  Does installation of a new window involve ‘work area’?

A.  No. Although this is a level 2 alteration it does not contribute to work area.


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Q. Classifying work: Provide examples for classifying work on existing buildings.

A.  See table below and text in IEBC Chapter 4.


1) Removal of asphalt roof down to the sheathing & reroof w/asphaltLevel 18) Installation of exterior millwork on an historic building.Hist Building
2) Tenant fit-out of 6 stories of the Prudential Tower in BostonLevel 19) Restoration, replacement, & patching of clapboard siding.Repair
3) Addition of two stories to the top of a 10-story buildingAddition10) Removal of a oil furnace and replacement with gas furnaceLevel 1
4) Addition of solar panels to a 2-story steel frame buildingLevel 211) Condo conversion.  Includes new window for each garden unit.Level 2
5) 3 Unit R-2: Remove/replace plaster and lathe, electrical and insulation. Same number & location of doors and windows, but most replaced. Level 112) Strip mall.  Building A/C unit replacement with new duct work to service new tenant on end unit. Level 2
6) Mill Building Conversion: F-Use to R-UseChange of Occ13) 6 unit R-2: Blown in cellulose insulationLevel 1
7) Removal of asphalt roof & reroof w/copper.Level 114)  A structurally independent horizontal addition to the BPLAddition


Q. Masonry walls: Does MA amendment to the IEBC 2009, Section 101.10 item (3) apply to K to12, E-use?

A.  No. It applies to buildings only where there is a change in use to a K to 12, E-Use.


Chapter 115AA Stretch Energy Code

Also see Stretch Energy Code FAQ's



Q. Savings basis:Is the Stretch Code’s 20% reduction requirement cost based or energy based?

A.  Energy based. The Stretch Code uses the ASHRAE appendix G protocols, but rather than judging performance relative to code on a cost basis (as LEED does, and ASHRAE appendix G discusses as a result) the stretch code commercial prescriptive path asks that the results be compared on an energy use basis. The energy use number for the reference and improved building is also calculated in the appendix G methodology, and provides a more direct way of showing energy use reductions - which is the intent of the stretch energy code.


Q. HERS compliance: If the HERS rating option is used for new construction do the prescriptive and mandatory provisions of Chapter 4 of the IECC 2009 apply as well? 

A.  Prescriptive, No. Mandatory, Yes. The mandatory provisions include: air sealing of the building envelope, controls on heating and cooling systems, sealing of ducts, insulation of circulating hot water piping, sizing of HVAC equipment, controls on snow melt systems, pool covers, and controls for pool heaters. In addition to these mandatory provisions, the required HERS rating must be met along with compliance with the Energy Star Qualified Homes Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist.

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