Code Interpretations, Modifications and Appeals
The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), updated every three years, is a living document that ensures the health, safety and welfare of the public are protected. However, applying the codes can be complex, for instance:
- You may find code sections can be confusing or subject to interpretation.
- You may encounter instances where the code does not exactly fit your design.
- A code official, such as inspector or plan reviewer, may apply a code section in a manner with which you do not agree.
The information below can help you find clarity and bring resolution to your code-related issues.
If a code section requires greater clarification, you should consider purchasing the code commentary. While not enforceable, these stand-alone publications provide the background and intent of each code section for all national codes referenced by the commonwealth of Virginia. You can purchase the commentaries at the International Code Council's online bookstore.
The International Code Council (ICC) also provides free code interpretations for members. For information on membership or to obtain an official code interpretation from ICC's technical staff, call at 1-888-ICC-SAFE. ICC interpretations may be useful to support your circumstance. However, if you seek a more local interpretation, contact the following county officials:
|Title||Code Enforced||Contact Information|
|Building Official||Virginia Construction Code||703-324-5175, TTY 711|
Property Maintenance Official
|Virginia Maintenance Code||703-324-1300, TTY 711|
|Fire Marshal||Virginia Fire Code||703-246-4800, TTY 711|
The Fairfax County Building Official has the authority to issue a modification to a building code provision provided the proposed change meets the original's spirit and functional intent. Consider applying for a code modification if…
- Your project's design or construction does not meet the letter of the building code, but you feel it complies with its intent.
- A code provision from an edition of the code that Virginia has yet to adopt better addresses your design or construction.
- You have an alternate design, unknown method or new material that is not addressed in the code.
Each modification is unique to a specific project and cannot be construed as a countywide or statewide code interpretation. A code modification is not a variance or a relaxation of a requirement; the Building Official does not have the authority to waive provisions of the code.
To apply for a code modification, complete the Code Modification Request Form and follow the instructions therein to submit your documentation to the Building Official. You may also submit a written request with the same information required in the form. You will find that supporting documentation can be helpful to demonstrate your proposed modification meets the functional intent of the code.
The Building Official and the Code Modification Review Committee evaluate the technical merits of the proposed code modification. You will be notified in writing of the final ruling which will be an approval, denial or a conditional approval. If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Building Official, you can request a local appeal; see below.
When a plan review or inspection is failed, a code modification request is denied or a notice of violation is issued, you can appeal to the Local Board of Building Code Appeals (LBBCA).
The local board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, has varying areas of expertise and experience as architects, engineers or builders. No Fairfax County employee can serve as a member of the local board.
Any person aggrieved by the local building department’s application of the USBC or the refusal to grant a code modification to the provisions of the USBC may appeal to the LBBCA. Submit the Building Code Appeals Application or a written request with the same information to the following address:
Secretary to the Local Board of Building Code Appeals
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 334
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5504
Requests must be submitted within the following time frames from receipt of a denied code modification, notice of violation or alike.
- 30 calendar days for new construction.
- 14 calendar days for property maintenance.
- 14 calendar days for fire code.
- 14 calendar days for amusement devices.
Failure to submit a request for an appeal within the time limit above will constitute acceptance of the code official's decision.
Board hearings take place monthly in Fairfax. The secretary to the local board will contact you regarding the status of your appeal prior to the hearing date. To contact the secretary, call 703-324-5175, TTY 711.
Hearings are open to the public where the Local Board will hear testimony from the appellant, the code official or any person whose interests may be affected by the appeal. You or your representatives should attend the meeting; failure to show up at the hearing does not postpone or cancel the appeal.
After testimony, the local board will deliberate and render a decision which you or the code official must take immediate action to comply with or request a statewide appeal; see below.
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Local Board of Building Code Appeals, you may appeal to the State Building Code Technical Review Board in Richmond. Appeal requests must be made within 21 calendar days of the receipt of the resolution of the local board. Application forms and more information are available here or by calling 804-371-7150, TTY 711.
Please note: Fairfax County can also appeal the local board's decision. If this is the case, you are expected to appear in Richmond to defend your original appeal.