20 Years of the Rehabilitation Subcode

The adoption of the Rehabilitation Subcode (N.J.A.C. 5:23-6) was published in the New Jersey Register on January 5, 1998.  It was the first comprehensive set of code requirements for existing buildings. It remains a stand-alone subchapter, and it contains all of the technical requirements that apply to a rehabilitation project.

Prior to the adoption of the Rehabilitation Subcode, the process in the Uniform Construction Code for dealing with rehabilitation in New Jersey was the 25/50% rule. The 25 and 50 percentages referred to the cost of the alterations in relation to the value of the building.  There were three relevant ratios or thresholds in the 25/50 percent rule: (1) under 25% of the building’s value, (2) 25–50% of the building’s value, and (3) over 50% of the building’s value.

The Rehabilitation Subcode, https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/codes/codreg/ucc.html, is a technical part of the Uniform Construction Code and therefore has no provisions governing permits. This does not mean that permits are not required. In fact, the provisions for permits and other administrative procedures are where they have always been: in subchapter 2 of the Uniform Construction Code.  Work that required a permit before the adoption of the Rehab Subcode may still require a permit.

This subcode is divided into parts that are quite different from the new construction subcodes. These parts must be understood if the Rehabilitation Subcode is to be applied correctly..

  • There are three types of projects: Rehabilitation; Change of Use; and Additions.
  • There are four Categories of Rehabilitation: repair; renovation; alteration; and reconstruction. They relate to the extent of the work undertaken.
  • There are five Sets of Requirements: products and practices; materials and methods; new building elements; basic requirements; and supplemental requirements that apply to the categories of work.

The best way to see how the categories and sets of requirements work together is to review the matrix within UCC Bulletin 98-1, https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/codes/resources/bulletins.html.

Along with parts described above, it is important to recognize certain terms and concepts used in the Rehabilitation Subcode which are central to understanding the Rehab Subcode as a whole:  Work Area; De minimis; Tenancy; Primary Function Space; Path of Travel; Technically Infeasible; and Hazard Index. The definition of the terms listed can be found at N.J.A.C. 5:23-6.3. Further explanation of the concepts listed can be found at https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/codes/offices/rehabbackground.html.

There is plenty more to know about the Rehabilitation Subcode (and I know some people have tried to avoid it, even after 20 years). Please visit https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/codes/offices/rehab.html  to refresh yourself on why we have this subcode and to best understand its project-based application.

Source: Construction Code Communicator, Rob Austin, Code Assistance Unit, 609-984-7609