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CALIFORNIA'S SHBC: Code Upgrading "Triggers" and the SHBC

An important, useful and cost-effective feature of the State Historical Building Code (SHBC) is that it does not recognize the "triggers" typically found in regular code. What this means that, for qualified historical properties governed by the SHBC, the degree or amount of rehabilitation work, the preceeding length of vacancy, or even a change of occupancy, may not be used as justification for an automatic requirement for other types of additional upgrading, or for full regular code compliance (Sections 8-106, 8-403, 404).

This is especially important in the field of access compliance and seismic upgrading. Historic resources are not exempt from these two mandates, although work undertaken because of these mandates continues to be governed by the SHBC. When work is undertaken on historic resources to remedy deficiencies in these two critical areas, such "triggers," requiring additional upgrading work, if invoked by jurisdictions, would serve as a major impediment to the correction of access or seismic deficiencies. In a "worst case" scenario, the added expense of "trigger" requirements could result in the loss of the resource.

With the continued viability of historic properties the primary goal of the Historical Building Code, triggering mechanisms, which are routinely found in many Codes and Ordinances, pose an unwarranted threat to the continued existence of these properties, and are thus categorically excluded. The "accessibility triggers" accompanying state-mandated seismic upgrading are a partial exception: in the interest of reasonable accessibility, these projects require a case-by-case evaluation, governed by the SHBC.