California Building Standards Code: Basic Online Research

Introduction to California Building Standards Code

What is the California Building Standards Code?

The regulations in California pertaining to building standards can be found in the California Building Standards Code, also referred to as Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR). The code is published every three years with emergency supplements in between. While all other titles of the CCR can be accessed by Californians on Westlaw, Title 24 is unique in that it is modeled from several national and international model codes. Due to this, it is subject to different publishing restrictions and is published online and in print separately from the rest of the CCR. Currently, Title 24 can be found online on the California Building Standards Commission website. The three most recent editions of Title 24 are hosted, so currently the 2013, 2016, and current 2019 edition can be found there.

The California Building Standards Commission states that the California Building Standards Code is a compilation of three types of building standards from three different origins:

  • Building standards that have been adopted by state agencies without change from building standards contained in national model codes;
  • Building standards that have been adopted and adapted from national model codes (i.e. the Uniform Building Code, International Building Code, etc.) to address California’s ever-changing conditions; and
  • Building standards, authorized by the California legislature, that constitute amendments not covered by national model codes, that have been created and adopted to address particular California concerns.

All occupancies in California are subject to national model codes adopted into Title 24, and occupancies are further subject to amendments adopted by state agencies and ordinances implemented by local jurisdictions’ governing bodies. So, even if you find a seemingly pertinent section in California Building Standards Code, consult your local agencies for regulations that may also be in effect.

California Building Code v. California Building Standards Code

Many people reference the “California Building Code” but that is only one part — Part 2 — of the larger California Building Standards Code (Title 24) that consists of:

  • Part 1: California Administrative Code
  • Part 2: California Building Code
  • Part 2.5 California Residential Code
  • Part 3: California Electrical Code
  • Part 4: California Mechanical Code
  • Part 5: California Plumbing Code
  • Part 6: California Energy Code
  • Part 8: California Historical Building Code
  • Part 9: California Fire Code
  • Part 10: California Existing Building Code
  • Part 11: California Green Building Standards Code
  • Part 12: California Referenced Standards Code

While Part 2 the California Building Code is the most frequently consulted and sought after, it is important to know that other parts may need to be consulted.

California Building Standards Code Online Resources

California Building Standards Code Educational Materials

This guide will provide some information about what is available freely online to help you with your research. There are more robust guides directly available from the California Building Standards Commission if you need to familiarize yourself with more thorough research or use of Title 24:

California Building Standards Codes

2013–2019 (current)

The California Building Standards Code is published triennially and the Building Standards Commission hosts the three most recent editions online. Currently, these consist of the 2013, 2016, and 2019 edition which became effective on January 1, 2020.

The library gets requests for PDF versions of these codes, but due to publishing agreements, these are not available officially in a downloadable format. The codes available at the link above need to be viewed online and browsed a page at a time in the proprietary viewer. Unfortunately, there is not a way to freely access the official version digitally or to easily print out these pages without purchasing the digital version directly from the publisher.

The California State Library has complete print versions available to view in the Witkin State Law Library, and your local county library may also have a collection if you would like to view the regulations in person.

2010 and prior

Researching the California Building Standards Code in an official capacity online prior to 2013 is largely not feasible if you are hoping to consult official sources. Publishing agreements prohibit them from being published online if they are based on a copyrighted model code.

The Witkin State Law Library has a comprehensive collection of the California Building Standards Code dating back to 1981 that anyone can view in person at our library, or certain sections can be requested to be scanned and emailed to patrons by sending an email to csllaw@library.ca.gov.

Model Codes

While the California Building Standards Codes are not available online before 2010, the UC Berkeley Library has digitized versions of the Uniform Building Code, on which Part 2, the California Building Code was based. The California Building Code, based on the year, sometimes requires the use of a corresponding copy of the Uniform Building Code as not all of the model code regulations are reprinted. For example, even with the 1981 California Building Code, you would still need a copy of the 1979 Uniform Building Code in order to have a complete collection of the regulations effective in 1982. UC Berkeley has links to the Uniform Building Codes from 1967 to 1994.

Below is a chart that shows the California Building Code and the corresponding model code edition that it is based on. While not all of these model codes are available freely online, many are at the UC Berkeley link above.

California Building Code Edition Based on Model Code Edition
1981 UBC 1979
1985 UBC 1979, 1982, 1985
1989 UBC 1988
1992 UBC 1991
1995 UBC 1994
1998 UBC 1997
2001 UBC 1997
2007 International Building Code (IBC) 2006
2010 IBC 2009

Contact Us

We realize the complications in doing research on Title 24, even with copies of the materials readily accessible. With a lack of available digital resources, research can be impossible depending on the era.

Our librarians are always willing to assist with your research questions regarding California Building Standards Code. For assistance contact the Witkin State Law Library by email, call us at (916) 323-9839, or use Ask a Librarian.