Tiny houses are a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. These structures are meant to be about as minimalist as you can get, and a lot of them are designed so they can be mobile as well. There isn’t a lot of regulation surrounding tiny houses, which means that there isn’t any sort of specific code that the houses must meet for occupancy. That might be changing, however.
The 2018 International Residential Code is set to include rules concerning tiny houses after Public Comment RB168-16 received a majority vote for the revision (though they still need to be certified by the ICC’s validation committee and confirmed by the ICC board). This will add rules in an appendix of the 2018 IRC, creating a model code that local governments can adopt. So what does all of this mean for electricians?
Defining the Tiny House
The biggest news is that the new appendix will officially define what a tiny house is and what some of its unique features are. This is important, since this definition will determine whether the tiny house rules apply on any structure that you’re working on. According to the new rule, a tiny house is officially considered any residential structure with a footprint of 400 square feet or less; this doesn’t include loft space. Small structures that are larger than 400 square feet don’t qualify, meaning that they’ll have to conform to other applicable rules.
Minimum Dimension Requirements
The new rules for tiny houses also include rules for some of the minimum dimensions of the structure. These rules are intended to make sure that the ceilings are high enough, rooms large enough and walkways wide enough to ensure safe occupancy. This can be useful information if you’re going to have to wire tiny houses, since the minimum dimensions give you a rough idea of the sort of area you’ll be working in even before you’re on the job. It’s possible that specific tiny houses will have larger dimensions, but you won’t have to worry about builds that have smaller.
Once the rules go into effect, state and local governments can start using them to establish requirements for tiny house building permits and occupancy certification. Specific ordinances for tiny houses may lay out details of the wiring for these structures that differ from standard housing, similar to how the rules establish a lower minimum ceiling height than what is seen in most structures. This may result in you having to identify whether a new build is actually a tiny house per the official definition, since that will determine how it should be wired by code.
It’s Only a Model
Perhaps the most important thing about these new rules is that they don’t actually carry the weight of law in and of themselves. It’s up to state and local governments to implement or adapt the new code in their jurisdictions. You’ll need to see how your state and locality respond to the addition to determine whether the new rules will affect you at all. If they’re implemented by the appropriate governing bodies, either in full or in part, then you’ll be bound by the rule of law at that point. Until then, however, you’ll need to simply be aware that the rules exist and may affect you at some point in the future.