Fresh from the Oven – Denver 2019 Amendments

On Dec. 26, 2019, the City Council of Denver approved the new 2019 Denver Amendments to the 2018 ICC codes, ushering upcoming projects in Denver into a new era. Simon Xie, Swanson Rink’s Senior Fire Protection Engineer, has been tracking these changes and has provided the following summary.


  1. After the official adoption of the 2019 Denver Amendments, there will be a four-month grace period within which projects can still use the 2016 Denver Amendments for the permit. After the grace period, the building official may only approve the 2016 Denver Amendments on a case-by-case basis.
    • The new amendments are part of an effort to switch from the 2015 ICC model codes to the 2018 ICC codes. This means Denver Codes will also carry many of these significant changes in the model codes. Furthermore, several major changes in the amendments will actually be borrowed from the draft changes to the 2021 ICC codes. Here are two examples:
    1. Fires involving lithium-ion batteries have caught the attention of the news, including fires with cell-phones, electric vehicles, or energy storage systems. As battery technologies evolve, the regulations will continue to change to keep up.
    2. Have you heard the buzz about Tall Wood Buildings? If you’re interested in building one in Denver, you can rest assured – the tall wood construction provisions from 2021 IBC have been borrowed and put into the 2019 Denver Amendment.
  2. The first-ever Denver Green Code will soon be published. You can find the latest draft version of the Denver Green Code by clicking here. Based on the 2018 International Green Construction Code, the 2019 Denver Green Code offers more stringent requirements. Compliance with the Denver Green Code is optional, but the City and County of Denver is planning incentives to promote this new code – expedited permit review and reduced permitting fees are some of the potential incentives.

Building Code and Existing Building Code:

  1. Let’s welcome the new member to the family – Building Code Appendix U, Tall Wood Buildings. Mass-timber constructions can go higher with this new appendix paving the way.
  2. Struggling about the most effective egress strategy for super high-rise buildings? Self-evacuation elevators are now permitted. Note that using the elevator as part of the egress strategy needs to be validated through a sophisticated egress analysis.
  3. You may have enjoyed the 2016 Denver Building Code Appendix Q, a consolidated location for all requirements of access control. However, all these access control requirements will no longer be located in Appendix Q and will instead, be spread throughout different sections of the code.
  4. Equal and easy building access for everyone – powered public entrances are now required for Group A (except A-5), B, M, and R-1 with high occupant load.
  5. Another step to greater equality – all-gender provisions for the toilet and bathing rooms are added.

Fire Code:

  1. The most significant update is the brand new Chapter 12 from the 2018 IFC. This chapter is also enhanced by the 2019 Denver amendments. In a nutshell, this is the chapter that contains all the requirements about building electrical energy generation and storage, i.e. standby/emergency power, photovoltaic systems, fuel cells, and battery and capacitor energy storage systems.
  2. Smoke control systems might be one of the most complex building systems. Compared to the approach used in many other jurisdictions, Denver’s smoke control approach is quite unique. The amendments keep Denver’s legacy approach with new specifics to materialize the interpretations from the fire department (i.e. the make-up air for the unique high-rise floor smoke exhaust systems).
  3. Watch out for the new term “fire command room” introduced by the amendment. A fire command room is required in each building that requires an emergency voice/alarm communication system. The fire command room has similar requirements to the “fire command center” required in high-rise buildings.
  4. When did you last check the Fire Department Connection (FDC)? The new amendments start retroactively requiring all FDCs to have better protection against vandalism.

Energy Conservation Code and Green Construction Code:

  1. You may have heard about the Denver 80×50 Climate Action Plan – the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below the 2005 level by 2050. The 2019 Denver Amendments and the new Denver Green Codes are the first concrete steps toward this goal. The energy conservation goals laid out in the amendments will achieve greater energy conservation than the 2018 IECC.
  2. The Energy Cost Budget (ECB) method is no longer accepted.
  3. Requirements around air barriers and thermal envelopes are more stringent. Lighting power allowances and daylighting controls are all enhanced for greater energy conservation. Mechanical and plumbing systems are also required to reach greater efficiencies.
  4. New IECC amendments are added to require new commercial buildings to be “EV ready” and “Solar ready”.
  5. Denver Green Code (DGC) offers four compliance pathways: 1. Prescriptive requirements from the DGC; 2. LEED Platinum; 3. Net Zero Energy, and 4. Passive House + Non-energy DGC.

To conclude, there are many changes in the new 2019 Denver Amendments that create both challenges and opportunities. For help navigating these, contact Simon at Swanson Rink with any questions. or 303-832-2666

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