Adoption of the 2018 Virginia Building Code Brings Changes as Deadline Approaches

The recent adoption of the 2018 Virginia Building Code edition for residential and commercial structures brings some changes and additions to the building codes to help keep residents and business customers safer but also adapt to changing practices like “tiny homes.”

The first thing to notice is that it is not 2018. Despite already adopting the new codes, there is currently a grace period that allows construction using either the 2015 or 2018 edition. As of July 1, 2022, architects and builders must adhere to 2018 Residential and Commercial Virginia Building Codes. The purpose of building codes is not to prohibit what can be built but rather to help the public build the safest and decent structures for their money. 

“It is not always apparent to the public why a code would be required, but it is ultimately something that will be a life safety aspect for the building or structure,” says Cary Jamison, Building Official for Stafford County. “It is a goal for the building codes to maintain proper functioning of equipment, therefore keeping the structure operating safely.”

The 2018 Virginia Residential Code (VRC) has several changes to note for those planning to build a home. First, there are new carbon dioxide detector requirements for fuel-fired appliances. If problems occur, the CO2 devices alert occupants to protect them from carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon dioxide detectors are installed in a home, they now must all be interconnected.

For homeowners installing solar power, there are now updated requirements to meet, such as minimum walking space between panels for better roof access. In addition, there are now more criteria to meet for the energy conservation codes for both residential and commercial buildings. As lighting technology advances, permanent light fixtures must have increased high-efficacy from 75% to 90% of the fixtures.

The most significant change to note in the residential code is the inclusion of land-based “tiny homes” as a type of structure for the first time. These small and efficient homes were not previously able to meet the minimum square footage requirement for a room, so the code has been adapted to allow for the smaller rooms. In recent years, there has been increased popularity for the various types of tiny homes. They advocate for downsizing living spaces and simplifying what is needed in a home.

The 2018 Virginia Commercial Code (VCC) has also seen several changes. The occupancy loading criteria for commercial buildings such as offices, hair salons, barbershops, and doctor’s offices have changed. A new construction type is now approved for multi-story commercial buildings using heavy timber, allowing for them to be built higher. Family-assisted-use restrooms may now also contain a child-height toilet and sink to provide higher-level accommodation.

If you are planning a residential or commercial building project, the Community Development Service Center and the Department of Development Services - Building Division are here to help guide you to build the safest structure possible. For more information, visit