Modular Building Institute
Relocatable Buildings Annual Report 2019 | Modular Building Institute

Relocatable Buildings Sector: Guide for Code Compliance

All newly constructed relocatable buildings must be constructed in accordance with the building codes that are in effect at the time of the building’s construction. These buildings are constructed offsite and many elements are concealed when the building arrives to the site (closed construction).

As such, most states (35) have a state-wide administrative program in place to determine if the building itself was constructed in accordance with all applicable codes. The terminology varies within state programs with many referring to these buildings as “industrialized buildings”, or even “manufactured buildings.” The latter term is not generally preferred as it tends to imply that these buildings are constructed to the same federal HUD code as manufactured housing products, which is not the case.

These state programs require manufacturers of relocatable buildings to be approved with the state agency, have a quality assurance program approved, and submit regular reports. Additionally, each floorplan the manufacturer intends to build must be reviewed and approved by a licensed third-party design professional in the state. These professionals are sometimes referred to as compliance assurance agencies (CAA) or third-party inspection agencies (TPIA).

Once the manufacturer and plan is approved, every manufactured section or module of an industrialized building shall be marked with a label supplied by the TPIA that includes the name and address of the compliance assurance agency and the certification label number.

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The relocatable building will also have a manufacturer’s data plate that is permanently attached on or adjacent to the electrical panel posted in the location as noted on the drawings, and includes information such as:
1. Occupancy group
2. Manufacturer’s name and address
3. Date of manufacture
4. Serial number of module
5. Design roof live load, design floor live load, snow load, wind, and seismic design
6. Approved Quality assurance agency or approved inspection agency
7. Codes and standards of construction
8. Envelope thermal resistance values
9. Electrical service size
10. Fuel burning equipment and size
11. Special limitations if any

Following this process, the building is ready to be permitted and placed on its first location and is considered approved or “registered” in the state. Registered buildings should be accepted in all localities as meeting the requirements of the codes for the building itself. The label affixed by the third-party is the indication for the local building code official that the unit does in fact comply with codes. The local, therefore, generally has no jurisdiction over “what is inside the box.” However, local requirements affecting buildings, such as local land-use and zoning, local fire zones, site development, building setback, side and rear-yard requirements, property line requirements, and subdivision regulations, are within the scope of the local authority.

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Existing Relocatable Buildings

Unique to relocatable buildings is that they are designed and constructed with the explicit purpose of being relocated and used multiple times possibly at multiple locations, including in other states. Once relocated from its original site, the building is now considered an “existing building” (per IBC 2015, one for which a legal building permit has been issued). Prior to 2015, Chapter 34 of the IBC contained compliance information for existing buildings. Beginning with the 2015 IBC, Chapter 34 has been removed in its entity and replaced with a “pointer” to the International Existing Building Code or IEBC (IBC 2015 Section 101.4.7).

In Chapter 13 of the 2015 IEBC, “Relocated or Moved Buildings,” Section 1301.1 Scope states that “this chapter provides requirements for relocated or moved structures, including relocatable buildings as defined in Chapter 2”. Those requirements address various life safety issues such as the wind loads, seismic loads, and snow loads. Any existing relocatable building moved into a new jurisdiction must meet these load conditions. The local code official can find this information from the manufacturer’s data plate affixed to the building.

Aside from the specific site and zoning issues, a local building code official needs only to locate the third-party label and the manufacturer’s data plate on the relocatable building to determine compliance. If the building is missing either the label or the data-plate, the building is subject to approval by the local code official.

Relocatable Building defined (2015 IEBC) – a partially or completely assembled building constructed and designed to be reused multiple times and transported to different buildings sites.

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