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Proposed Updates to the Chicago Mechanical Code

2021 0826 Ideas Post
Aug 26, 2021
Ed Feibel

As a part of Phase 3 of the Chicago Building Code Modernization, updates and changes to the mechanical code have been introduced to City Council for review and we hope that they are adopted at an upcoming council meeting. Note that these amendments, once passed, will be an option for use by projects submitted before January 1, 2022, but will be mandatory for all projects submitted after that date.

Mayor Lightfoot stated in a press release that the intent of this code update is to:

  • Standardize the method of accepting listed and labeled heating, cooling, and ventilation appliances that have been rigorously tested to meet or exceed safety standards.
  • Adopt national standards for the use of energy-efficient condensing clothes dryers for residential applications.
  • Update requirements for the exhaust for domestic cooking appliances.
  • Recognize energy recovery ventilation systems.
  • Update list of recognized refrigerants and refrigerant piping requirements.
  • Streamline trade licensing requirements for stationary engineers

We have summarized some of these changes below and noted how they could impact your projects:

  • Ductless clothes dryers are recognized in the mechanical code. Section 18-28-504 has been removed and replaced with new language which allows for ductless dryers to be installed per code, without the need for the submission of Alternative Code Approval Requests (ACARs). This will allow for the installation of modern equipment with less administrative work.
  • Greater allowances for cooking/cleaning equipment to be installed without requiring a hood, as long as they comply with requirements for grease or moisture exhaust when in use. Two additional exceptions have been added to 18-28-507.2

“3. For electric cooking appliances where an approved testing agency provides documentation that the appliance effluent contains 5 mg/m3 or less of grease when tested at an exhaust flow rate of 500 cfm in accordance with UL 710B.”

“4. Commercial dishwashing machines and commercial food heat procession appliances that produce heat or moisture but do not produce grease or smoke, where the heat and moisture loads from such appliances are incorporated into the design of the HVAC system or a separate removal system provided an exhaust rate of at least 70 cfm for each individual appliance not installed under a hood.”

These exceptions will permit the installation of more cooking equipment and dishwashing equipment without the need for expensive hood equipment or the application for an ACAR or review by the Committee on Building Standards and Tests.

  • A new section has been added to the mechanical code, 18-28-514, Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems. This new section defines the requirements for the installation of ERV systems, as well as indicates locations where they cannot be used, such as hazardous exhaust, dust, stock and refuse systems that convey explosive or flammable vapors, fumes, or dust, Smoke control systems, commercial kitchen exhaust systems serving Type I hoods, and clothes dryer exhaust systems.

With those exceptions, ERV systems are required to comply with UL 1812 for ducted heat recovery ventilators and UL 1815 for non-ducted heat recovery ventilators.

  • Table 18-28-1103.1 has been updated, which lists the acceptable refrigerants. The list of acceptable refrigerants has been updated to match modern systems, equipment, and requirements.

MAPS will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation as it moves through the City Council progress and provide updates as it is approved. Please feel free to reach out to MAPS if you have any questions regarding the current mechanical code or any of the proposed changes.