Commercial Advocacy Roundtable

AIA Austin, through its Advocacy Commission, is actively engaged with City of Austin staff to keep updated as to zoning and building code changes, specifically including the Commercial Review and Inspections Departments. The purpose is to inform AIA Austin members of various code changes and City of Austin staff interpretations affecting architects and their practice.

Chair: Terry Newton, AIA
Chair-Elect: Chi Lee, AIA
AIA Austin Staff Liaison: Ingrid Spencer

Committee Information:

2015 IBC Approval Update

The 2015 IBC public hearing is scheduled for September 28, 2017. If approved by Council that day, the new 2015 IBC code will become effective January 1, 2018. It has also been indicated by the City of Austin that if anyone would like to make a request to use 2015 IBC before the effective date, the option is there. You must clearly identify to the city which sections of code you would like to use as you proceed with design and permitting.

Solar Ready

Over the past year, Austin Energy has been facilitating public discussion about a desire to include a solar-ready provision in its code. After an informal review, this proposal is now being offered for public debate. Please read and evaluate the linked documents: the City’s proposed solar-ready language as it would apply to commercial properties (only); and a companion guide which adds clarity. Austin Energy is facilitating the following opportunities for public input on both the commercial and residential provisions:

Please check the respective websites for each of these groups for updates.

Special Inspections

The City of Austin has updated its Special Inspections requirements and processes, with updates taking effect for all commercial projects submitted on or after February 13, 2017. Please see the following City of Austin link for additional information:
Click Here to View the Process
Click Here to View the Special Inspections Forms

Structural Review

The City of Austin has been incorporating Structural Review into the Building Permit Review Process for certain commercial project types; this additional review applies to projects submitted on or after February 13, 2017. Please see the following City of Austin link for additional information:
Click Here to View the List of Projects and Submittal Requirements

2015 IBC / IEBC Proposed Amendments 10/27/2016

The Building/Fire Board of Appeals approved staff recommendations for 2015 IBC and IEBC proposed amendments. The 2015 IBC and IEBC amendments will be presented to council for approval with intensions of being adopted and effective starting April1, 2017. The council date has not been identified, however it typically takes three months after council's approval for it to become mandated as the new building code.

City staff has made an effort to reduce the amount of local amendments from 2012 to 2015 IBC and IEBC in hopes to simply follow the code more directly. It appears that this is consistent with our involvement in the process.

Drafts of the proposed amendments:

If you have any concerns or input to this process please contact Michael Hsu and Mark Odom on your Commercial Advocacy Committee thru the AIA Austin office.

Amendments appeared to be minimal without any major concerns. Brief notes regarding primary amendments discussed as follows:
A. SECTION 1712 REGISTERED INDUSTRIAL PLAN … WILL NOW BE AN ANNUAL PERMIT.  Large industry can file for an annual permit so that they can maintain operation maintenance throughout the year and not have to pull permits each time they want to do work.  Permits expire in 1 year and individuals will have to pull another permit for the next year following - no extensions.
B.  SECTION 105.2 … they’ve added flood or water damage areas to be exempt from permitting so that the individuals can get wet materials out quickly without mold.
C. SECTION 602.4.2 Cross Laminated Timber in Exterior Walls — Fire retardant treated wood sheathing will not be allowed.  Allowed will be Type X Gypsum and any non combustible material
D. SECTION 1009.3 Stairways — they have X-out #3 , clear width between handrails.  
E. SECTION 1027.3 Open Side — They’ve altered the amount of openness an exit stair requires (good thing)  … not less than 50% and a minimum of any two sides must comply.  openness should be distributed properly.
F. SECTION 1507.8 Wood shingles not acceptable
G. SECTION 1101.2 Design — Where conflicts occur between TAS and IBC … the most stringent rule will apply

Commercial Permit Review Times

AIA Austin has been participating in stakeholder meetings regarding Commercial Permit Review Times. Official review times are increasing, “to reflect actual  capability”. Please see the Commercial Review Times Presentation given by COA staff on October 7, 2016 and the Stakeholder Meeting Comments.  If you have  any input for the COA or AIA Austin please contact Beth Culver at, or Commercial Advocacy Committee member Michael Hsu at

City of Austin Expedited Permitting Program, Draft Guidelines October 6, 2016

AIA Austin has been participating as a stakeholder in the draft of the City of Austin’s upcoming Expedited Permitting Program Guidelines. Please note that under these guidelines, which will go to City Council soon, eligible projects for the expedited process are exempt from Better Builder Program participation and requirements if they are under 75,000 square feet OR under $7,500,000 in valuation. Non-profits are also exempt. Participation would be voluntary.  

The COA is looking for our continued feedback on this issue. Please go to to post your input.

AIA Austin Quick Turn-Around Project Template 2016

The AIA CART group spent much of 2015 working with the CoA Building Review Department to develop a template for Quick Turn-Around (QT) permit submissions. The intended purpose of the template is to help facilitate quicker plan reviews at the City by placing information plan reviewers need in places that they’ll expect to find it. Further, AIA members can utilize the template to document projects in a way that’s more easily reviewed. A draft QT template was developed and went through several reviews with CoA Plan Review, and its current form was approved by the City late in 2015.

At the Commercial Advocacy Roundtable, Michael Hsu briefly reviewed the accepted QT Template with attendees. You can download the QT template here: AIA Austin QT Template

Brief Overview:

The Quick Turn-Around permit review process was put in place by CoA to help facilitate permit review on projects under a certain size and lacking certain complications. The current criteria to qualify for QT permitting are here.

You can download the QT template here: AIA Austin QT Template

Brief Overview:

The Quick Turn-Around permit review process was put in place by CoA to help facilitate permit review on projects under a certain size and lacking certain complications. The current criteria to qualify for QT permitting are here. Ineligible projects listed here.

City of Austin officials have indicated that they will also evaluate larger projects on a case-by-case basis to determine if they may qualify for QT as well. Pre-review evaluations may be coordinated through CoA, Lalo Sanchez, Chief Plans Examiner / Supervisor’s office.

Since projects that qualify for QT may encompass a broad spectrum types and configurations, the QT Template has been distilled to attempt to provide checklist, review, and drawing information that plan reviewers will be looking for. It has been broken down into the following:

  • Potential required information and estimated leads times
  • Flow Chart for QT qualification based on CoA criteria
  • Checklists for required information and drawings
  • Proposed Sheet numbering and drawing location within set

AIA Austin and the CART group sincerely hope that our efforts in this endeavor will be a benefit to City reviewers in reducing permit review time and backlog, and most of all, we hope that it will be a benefit to AIA members in facilitating their work.

Energy Code Update

The City of Austin’s newly adopted Energy Code Ordinance will become effective Sept. 1, 2016. The final Energy Code Ordinance is attached. Please note that the new Energy Code adopts both ASHREA 90.1-2013 and the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code along with local City of Austin amendments. There are no anticipated differences between the draft and final versions, but please check the COA’s website for the most current code.

Of Note: New Hours for City of Austin Commercial Plan Review

Information from the City of Austin:

The Development Services Department is continuing efforts to improve service to customers. Effective August 15, 2016, new hours for commercial plan review will be in place.
Intake and General Information
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Review Staff and Standalone Trade Permit Consultations
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Quick Turnaround (No change)
Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. 

For Preliminary Plan Reviews email a request form. Appointments are on an as-needed basis to address review comments. Please schedule with an assigned reviewer. Appointments will not be limited to the morning walk-in consultation periods.

Documents discussed in the September 2016 Commercial Advocacy Roundtable include:
Documents discussed in the June 2016 Commercial Advocacy Roundtable include:

Proposed Solar Ready Requirements

Austin Energy staff has been working on language for drafts in support of the workgroup for Proposed Solar Ready Requirements. Following is a link to the full set of proposed documents on the Resource Management Commission (RMC) page of the City site. The intent is for the ordinance to apply to all buildings, with exceptions outlined therein.

Changes to Commercial Building Permit Application in 2015

Members, please be aware that starting January 1, 2015 the COA will require the following form be submitted as part of the commercial building permit application process. If you have comments or concerns regarding this new requirement please contact the Advocacy Committee thru Michael Hsu,

Per the City of Austin:  As of January 1st,  the Commercial Building Reviewers will began enforcing the Special Inspections Statement as shown on this attachment, as per IBC 2012 Chapter 17 per Section 1704.2.3. The applicant shall submit a statement of special inspection in accordance with Section 107.1 as a condition for permit issuance. The statement shall be in accordance with Section 1704.3.

2013 Fee Increase

Effective October 1, 2013, the Planning and Development Review Department will implement new fees and a 25% increase for certain fees associated with the review of residential and commercial construction plans. The new fee schedule, adopted as part of the 2013-14 Budget, includes new residential review fees for consultations, plan updates and revisions, condominium review, and volume builder submittals.

Commercial Review  & Permit Fee Schedule 2013

City of Austin Commercial Building Updates

AIA Austin through its advocacy sub-committee is actively engaged with City of Austin staff to keep updated as to changes in the processes and codes concerning commercial buildings and site development. The purpose is to inform AIA members of various code changes and city staff interpretations impacting architects and their practice.

City of Austin Contract Management Department

Here you will find access to information about contracting with the City, a listing of current professional services and construction contracting opportunities, and information about our services. Click here

Development / Site Planning and Building Permit

A good place to start the development process is at the City of Austin Development Assistance Center (DAC).  This office can be found on the first floor of One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road.

Building permit questions are best taken to the Permit Center and Commercial Building Plan Review on the second floor of One Texas Center.

A list of the currently applicable codes and City of Austin Amendments (Ordinances) to those codes can be found at the City of Austin.  Also at this link you will find information relating to commercial building permit application, floodplain, required third party testing, permit reactivation, Energy Code COM check, sign permits, quick turn around permit process, demolition permit, outdoor music ordinance, tree protection, tap requirements and other important documents and topics.
You can also send an email to Commercial Building.

2012 Technical Code Adoption

(new 6/26/13)

The 2012 Technical Code Adoption ordinances have been linked on the City’s website.
The codes will go into effect 9-16-2013.
The following ordinances are still being processed and are not available yet:

  • 2012 International Fire Code
  • 2012 Uniform Mechanical Code
  • 2012 International Energy Conservation Code
  • 2012 International Property Maintenance Code (scheduled for Council action on 8-8-2013.
Julie Brossette Kirby
Building Inspections Division
City of Austin, Planning & Development Review
505 Barton Springs Road, 3rd Floor
Austin Texas 78704
Fax 512-974-6569

Overtime Plan Review Guidelines Info as of 3-26-13
SUBCHAPTER E: Commercial Design standards and Mixed-Use

Officially known as Subchapter E of Chapter 25-2 of The Code of The City of Austin, this ordinance was adopted on August 31, 2006 and became effective on January 13, 2007.  Phase I amendments were implemented on March 12, 2009.

Subchapter E sets minimum site and building standards relating to design, regardless of project size.  Subchapter E can be a challenging ordinance to navigate, it has a broad scope and it’s requirements at times are both specific and open-ended. 

Subchapter E does allow for Alternative Equivalent Compliance to meet the intent of the code and to “To encourage creative and original design...that meets the intent of this Subchapter…”.  However, “The procedure is not a general waiver of regulations.”  The Director may also approve minor modifications from the terms of the Subchapter.

A short overview of Subchapter E’s purview would include:
1.    Applicability (Article 1.2): the applicability of the Subchapter is based on adjacent roadways and type of development.
2.    Relationship of Buildings to Streets (Article 2.2): sidewalks, building placement, street tree/furniture zone, internal circulation routes, building entrance locations
3.    Connectivity (Article 2.3): large sites requiring Internal Circulation Systems
4.    Parking (2.4): reductions and minimum off-street parking requirements
5.    Exterior lighting (Article 2.5)
6.    Screening of Equipment and Utilities (Article 2.6)
7.    Building Design (Article 3): minimum “glazing” requirements, shade and shelter requirements
8.    Options to Improve Building Design (3.3): if applicable, concerns building articulation, exterior finish materials, exterior enhancements, roof designs
9.    Mixed-Use (Article 4): concerning Mixed-Use Zoning Districts (MU), Vertical Mixed-Use Zoning Districts (VMU) and buildings

The City of Austin is drafting Phase II amendments to Subchapter E, tentatively, the City’s goal is to have a draft document issues to stakeholders in the Spring/Summer of 2011.

AIA Austin is working to gather information thru various committees and a member forum to present a list of recommended changes to the current ordinance to the City of Austin in June or July 2011.
Attachments: Subchapter E: Phase I amended, March 12, 2009

Sound Mitigation Issue

In response to a City Council Resolution, city staff has proposed laminated glass as a noise mitigation solution in the downtown area. Staff is proposing a technical code amendment to Section 2410 of the Building Code to require glazing on Group R buildings above 5 stories in height such that "Glazing exposed to the exterior and used as part of a curtain wall assembly, window and/or guardrail located on buildings that are over 5 stories in height must be laminated with two or more glass plies of equal thickness and the same glass type. Laminated glass shall comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1". The applicability is city-wide. Staff has reported that laminated glass (1/4" laminated glass -- 1/2" air -- 1/4" laminated glass) can have an STC rating of 42.

8-27-2012 Presentation to Design Commission.  Notes from meeting: 1) Concerns about discouraging development; 2) Concerns about incentivizing reduction in glazing (quality of streetscape issue); 3) STC ratings address mid-range sound, what is the effectiveness on bass? 4) Consider city work sound-proofing homes and schools around AIBA.

10-25-2012 Building & Fire Code Board of Appeals met on sound mitigation.
1) DAA presented letter against proposed measures
2) Board had a brief discussion and the matter was postponed to the 12-19-2012 meeting of the Building & Fire Code Board of Appeals.

11-26-2012 Design Commission letter regarding sound mitigation issued

Next steps: Goes to the Building & Fire Code Board of Appeals again on 12-19-2012. Then the matter will be presented to the City Council where staff will have an executive summary and the BFCBOA will have a recommendation. Staff is proposing to include the sound mitigation measures in the pending amendments to the 2012 International Building Code.

Opportunity for AIA Member input:  Write Dan McNabb HERE with the City of Austin, attend the December 19th Building & Fire Code Board of Appeals meeting, and attend the not-yet-scheduled City Council meeting where this matter is considered.