Posts

Tiny House Appendix Adopted in MA, Effective 1/1/2020

The Tiny House Appendix will become official in Massachusetts in January 2020.

The newest complete edition of the MA Building Code will be released in 2021.  However, effective 1/1/2020, Appendix Q, also known as the Tiny House Appendix, is anticipated to be adopted into the current Massachusetts state building code.

From a letter by John Nunnari, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Institute of Architects:

“The BBRS… voted to bundle a package of previous approved amendments intended for incorporation into the current 9th edition of the state building code.

It is anticipated that these amendments will become effective on January 1, 2020, and they include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adoption of 2018 IECC with MA amendments – including updates to the stretch energy code, new lighting power density requirements and incorporation of new EV- charging requirements for commercial project;
  • Revisions to Chapter 110.R3 manufactured building program;
  • Adoption of ICC’s 2018 base residential code Appendix Q pertaining to Tiny Houses;
  • New language outlining code requirements for the creation of micro-housing dwelling units within apartment and condominium buildings

What is Appendix Q: Tiny Houses?

Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under.  The Appendix pertains to the following aspects of designing a small or tiny house:

  • Ceiling Height
  • Loft Minimum Area, Height and Dimensions
  • Loft Access:
    • Stairway width, headroom, treads and risers, landing platforms, handrails and guards
    • Ladder size, capacity, and incline
    • Alternating tread devices
    • Ship’s ladders
    • Loft guards
  • Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings

Read the entire text of Appendix Q: Tiny Houses here. 

Timeline of the Advancement of Appendix Q

It’s been a long road in Massachusetts, full of starts, stops and quite a few government delays. But the hardest part is over and now other states should find it easier to adopt the Tiny House Appendix.  On January 1, 2020, Massachusetts and California simultaneously will join Maine, Idaho, Oregon and Georgia as the first six states to adopt the Tiny House Appendix into their building code.

Update 8/21/09: Virginia will also be adding the appendix to their 2021 code.

Here’s how it happened:

August 2016: Andrew Morrison submitted a proposed tiny house appendix to the International Code Council (ICC).

January 31, 2016: The Tiny House Appendix was officially adopted into the International Residential Code (IRC) by the ICC.  Now, it is up to each state to decide to adopt it into their own building code.

September 2017: Gabriella Morrison and Andrew Morrison traveled to Boston to present The Tiny House Appendix, then known as Appendix V, to the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards.  Jason at B&B Tiny Houses also testified to the BBRS.  Letters of support came from the American Tiny House Association and many, many tiny house enthusiasts in Massachusetts.

May 14, 2018: Tiny House Appendix Q Is Being Considered For Massachusetts’ State Building Code: Here’s How You Can Help Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS), at its regular monthly meeting, addressed Proposal Number 5-2-2018: “Consider adopting Appendix Q of the International Residential Code pertaining to Tiny Houses.”

July 12, 2018: Massachusetts BBRS Approves Tiny House Appendix: Here’s What’s Next After the BBRS approved the Appendix, it had to move through many state offices and be approved by each one.

September 5, 2018: Appendix Q “Tiny House Appendix” Advances in Massachusetts, August 2018. The Appendix was still moving though state offices, which was a good sign.  However, by the winter of 2018 we hadn’t seen any forward movement in Massachusetts and we couldn’t get an answer from the BBRS about whether the Appendix would be propagated.  In addition, there was a 35 day long government shutdown which we suspected may have hindered the progress of the Appendix.

January 22, 2019: Katie at B&B Tiny Houses worked with Massachusetts Senator Adam Hinds, Danielle Allard, Esq., the director of Budget & Policy for Sen. Hinds’ office, and the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to find a solution.  Together, we filed SD.1636, An Act relative to Tiny Homes to encourage the state of Massachusetts to adopt Appendix Q: Tiny Houses.  Read the bill here.

June 11, 2019: The Massachusetts BBRS and Governor Baker’s administration vote to officially adopt the Tiny House Appendix into the Massachusetts Building Code.

January 1, 2020: Appendix Q will be in effect in Massachusetts.

Does The Adoption of Appendix Q Mean I Can Build A Tiny House Wherever I Want In Massachusetts?

Not quite!  Every zone of every municipality in the state still has its own zoning bylaws.  Therefore, you’ll need to contact your municipality to see if they’ll allow your tiny-house-on-a-foundation project.  Here’s how.

We’re compiling a list of every municipality in Massachusetts’ attitude toward tiny houses on wheels and on foundations.  It’ll always be a work in progress as we research more municipalities and as zoning rules change over time.  If you have info to add to the list, please let us know!

Here’s what the Tiny House Appendix does mean for Massachusetts residents: wherever a house that’s 400 sq. ft. or under is allowed, there are now rules in place for how to build it safely and effectively.  Before, small and tiny houses on foundations would have had to adhere to certain building codes that work well for large buildings but would have been impractical or impossible to follow in small spaces.

What’s the difference between zoning code and building code?

Building code provides a set of safety standards that new buildings must adhere to by law.  These standards ensure the safety of the people using the building.  There are separate building codes for residential buildings (like houses and apartment buildings) and all other buildings (like shops, factories, schools, and workplaces).  The Tiny House Appendix is set to become part of the Massachusetts state building code, which is based on the International Residential Code.

Zoning code pertains to what types of buildings municipalities (cities and towns) allow, and where.  Often a city or town has several different zones, and each zone has different rules.  Zoning bylaws are decided by the zoning board of a city or town, and can be amended to better fit the needs of each city or town.  Zoning boards generally have regular meetings that are open to the public, where the public can share their concerns, get clarification on what is allowed to be built, and request a change to the zoning bylaws to improve their municipality.

Appendix Q is part of the Massachusetts building code, and serves to legitimize tiny and small dwelling spaces in the eyes of local building inspectors and zoning boards.  Municipalities that see there are ICC-approved codes to build tiny and small houses may be more inclined to adopt those types of homes into their zoning.

Green River Small House   kinderhook tiny house in snow park model

Left: Appendix Q applies to tiny houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. or under.

Right: Appendix Q does not apply to tiny houses on wheels. 

How Does The Tiny House Appendix Relate To Tiny Houses On Wheels?

Currently, the Tiny House Appendix, or Appendix Q, only regulates houses that are permanently-affixed.  It does not relate to tiny houses on wheels.  However, there is a movement to create a new version of Appendix Q for tiny houses on wheels as well.  Martin Hammer, Andrew Morrison, and Gabriella Morrison were instrumental in introducing Appendix Q to the International Building Code and then again to individual states including Massachusetts.  See their website for more info on future plans for a tiny house on wheels appendix.

 

Where In Massachusetts Are Tiny Houses Legal?

Where Can You Put A Tiny House in Massachusetts?

With your help, we’re compiling a list of every city and town in Massachusetts and its attitude toward tiny houses on wheels and on foundations.  This is part of a larger initiative by the American Tiny House Association to gather tiny house information for every state in the US.  (Katie at B&B Tiny Houses is also ATHA’s northeast regional director.)

As you’ll see in the chart, most cities and towns don’t already have a policy on tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels, so their stance on tiny houses is currently unknown.  Municipalities probably won’t consider whether to allow tiny houses unless someone brings it up with them!  As we’ve seen in Nantucket and Auburn, all it takes is one person to ask.

What Does Tiny House Appendix Q Mean For Tiny Houses On Foundations?

Tiny House Appendix Q has been adopted in Massachusetts, effective January 1, 2020. Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under.  However, the appendix doesn’t mean you can build a tiny house on a foundation wherever you want in Massachusetts: you’ll still have to adhere to your municipality’s zoning code.  Here’s more info on the Tiny House Appendix.

Please add to the list:

If you have spoken with your municipality’s government (zoning board, building inspector, or someone else) about tiny houses on wheels or on foundations, we would love to add your info to the list.  There’s even a column for rumors, if you’ve heard a town might be amenable to tiny house living but haven’t spoken with them directly yourself. 

How to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses:

Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com. 

If you haven’t spoken with anyone in your city or town government yet but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal, send a quick email to your town’s zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).  

Be sure to include the following information:

  • What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
  • What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
  • A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed.  If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.

They’ll be able to tell you right away whether tiny houses are legal.  If they’re not currently in the zoning, they’ll be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change in the zoning bylaws.  

If you have info on a specific municipality, please email info@bbtinyhouses.com and we’ll get your info added to the list.

Here are some tips to use the spreadsheet effectively:

  • The spreadsheet retains its formatting if you’re on a computer rather than on a mobile . If you’re on a mobile you won’t be able to sort columns.
  • To sort a column, right-click the letter at the top of the column and select “Sort A-Z”. For example, if you want to see all the towns in Hampden County, right-click “B” at the top of the second column (or click the small triangle next to “B”) and select “Sort A-Z”. Then scroll down to where the Hampden County section starts. If you only want to see towns with information added about tiny houses on foundations, you may select that column, which is “D”, and sort. Scroll to where the info starts.
  • To see all the information in a cell, click the cell.  The full text will show up in the bar above the sheet.

 

Appendix Q “Tiny House Appendix” Advances in Massachusetts, August 2018

Tiny House Appendix Advances in MA!

From the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) August 14, 2018 Regular Meeting Division of Professional Licensure (DPL):

Proposal Number 5-2-2018 – Consider adopting Appendix Q of the International Residential Code pertaining to Tiny Houses.

“On a MOTION by Rich Crowley seconded by Kevin Gallagher it was voted in the majority to advance Appendix Q forward as an amendment to the ninth edition of the code, independent of the tenth edition effort.

On discussion, Rob Anderson indicated that Board members should refrain from making changes to the ninth edition if the effort is to advance to a tenth edition based on the 2018 I-Codes. Jen Hoyt and Kerry Dietz agreed that it becomes awkward and confusing and, by their estimation, there still may be some issues to be resolved with other agencies relating to tiny houses and it makes more sense to review further as part of the tenth edition revision.

Following discussion, the motion was approved via a majority of Board members with Rob Anderson, Jen Hoyt, and Kerry Dietz voting in opposition.”

Next Steps:

According to Rich Crowley, board member of the MA BBRS, the next steps are for a public hearing in November and then a final vote.

“We’ve voted it in now it’s on to public hearing and final vote. After Tuesday’s vote I don’t anticipate any objection… In fact at one of our previous meetings there was one member, the architect, that voiced some opposition to micro units and this time she offered some positive feedback. The Proposal will return with a document that will more than likely get a unanimous approval as well. That should make it to the hearing and  to promulgation along with tiny houses.
…Once the hearing is over the following month we decide on all the items came in front of us at the hearing and vote up or down or move them somewhere but some form of action is taken at that following meeting. tiny houses are more than likely move forward. At that point it’s just two steps away from [promulgation].
Next it goes to Administration and finance. Once they sign off then it goes to the governor’s desk for signature. It takes maybe a day or two after that for the Secretary of State too publish it as a part of our first amendment to the 9th Edition of the mass building code. The date that gets published is the date of becomes Law so to speak.
I think we can get it all done by the first of the year pretty close. I have talked to lieutenant governor who’s very excited and wants to see it move forward. In fact when one of  governor Baker’s main themes is for affordable housing and that’s what this does. Give people a chance to get on that first rung of the ladder.”

Background Info:

What is The Tiny House Appendix?

Appendix Q addresses building code standards for small houses on foundations that have already been adopted into the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), including standards for lofts, stairs, egresses, and ceiling heights.  To be clear, the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix won’t completely legalize tiny houses in Massachusetts– that’s up to each city– but if it is adopted, it will provide a set of building standards for under 400 sq ft homes where they are legalized, and where they aren’t yet legalized, help legitimize tiny homes in the eyes of local building departments.  Appendix Q does not address tiny houses on wheels, as they are currently considered vehicles.

Read the Tiny House Appendix here.

Appendix Q in Massachusetts

Andrew and Gabriella Morrison have been instrumental in writing and getting the Tiny House Appendix adopted into the national 2018 IRC: now it’s up to each state, and then each city/town in each state, to adopt it into their specific building code.  Andrew presented at a Massachusetts BBRS meeting, introducing Appendix Q last fall.

Massachusetts BBRS Approves Tiny House Appendix: Here’s What’s Next

Good news for tiny houses on foundations in Massachusetts!

Appendix Q has been voted through by the BBRS.

This is not the end of the Tiny House Appendix’s journey to adoption, but it was an important step.

The Tiny House Appendix has been voted through by the Massachusetts Board of  Building Regulations and Standards!  It is now being reviewed by other state offices.  If adopted into the state building code, IRC 2018, it will provide safety standards for building tiny houses on foundations in Massachusetts.

Read the previous blog post on Appendix Q in Massachusetts here.

At this point, there’s not much action the public can take except wait until it is reviewed.  We haven’t been given a specific time frame for when the Appendix would be adopted. Assuming it will be adopted, it will then be up to each city and town to decide to call tiny houses on foundations legal, a decision which will be based off existing code which might exclude houses under a certain square footage, etc. While there is still a lot of work to be done on a local level if this does pass, for now, we’re waiting.

Robert Anderson of the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards says:

“Board members voted to advance adoption of the tiny house appendix, at least conceptually.

Among other things, Governor Baker’s Executive Order (EO) 562 requires agencies to review all regulations to ensure that they are not burdensome and\or cost prohibitive. Additionally, Building Code Coordinating Committee (BCCC) mandates regulatory review to ensure that regulations do not conflict and\or duplicate requirements so as to cause confusion to the user or enforcer. Accordingly, the measure will be advanced through each process over the next month or so. At the same time, Board members have requested a review of all 2018 I-Codes for which they have jurisdiction with the thought of advancing the entire code to the more current documents (rather than piecemeal adoption).

Board members will not meet again until August 14th where the conversation will continue. In the interim, we will explore the likelihood of advancing the entire code or just pieces (i.e. Appendix Q).

I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Robert Anderson
Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Public Safety and Inspections”

Background Info:

What is The Tiny House Appendix?

Appendix Q addresses building code standards for small houses on foundations that have already been adopted into the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), including standards for lofts, stairs, egresses, and ceiling heights.  To be clear, the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix won’t completely legalize tiny houses in Massachusetts– that’s up to each city– but if it is adopted, it will provide a set of building standards for under 400 sq ft homes where they are legalized, and where they aren’t yet legalized, help legitimize tiny homes in the eyes of local building departments.  Appendix Q does not address tiny houses on wheels, as they are currently considered vehicles.

Read the Tiny House Appendix here.

Appendix Q in Massachusetts

Andrew and Gabriella Morrison have been instrumental in writing and getting the Tiny House Appendix adopted into the national 2018 IRC: now it’s up to each state, and then each city/town in each state, to adopt it into their specific building code.  Andrew presented at a Massachusetts BBRS meeting, introducing Appendix Q last fall.