Building Code Appeals
Table of Contents
The Building Code Appeal process provides an avenue to submit a request and receive a relatively quick formal response for modifications to Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing or Floating Structures code requirements where compliance with the letter of the code is infeasible, and when there is an alternative method to meet the intent of a code provision. A Building Code Appeal may also be used to request confirmation of an interpretation of code language from the Building Official. Appellants are encouraged to consult with plan reviewers or inspectors prior to submitting an appeal for assistance identifying code requirements and possible alternative solutions that could be approved. If you want to appeal a Zoning Code requirement, please see Land Use Review appeals.
The Administrative Appeal Board consists of BDS managers and senior staff from the Plan Review and Inspections divisions, as well as representatives from the Fire Marshal’s Office. The Administrative Appeal Board convenes once a week and decisions are arrived at by consensus. Individual attendees vary depending on work assignments, vacations, etc., but the appropriate divisions are represented. Appellants do not attend the meetings, but if an appeal is denied, they are provided with informed staff to contact and discuss options. An appeal heard by the Administrative Board, if denied, may be resubmitted for reconsideration with additional information.
An appellant may also request a hearing before the Board of Appeals (aka Big Board) which is made up of volunteer members of the community with expertise in the relevant building codes and are appointed by City Council. The Board of Appeals meets once a month as needed, and the appellant attends the hearing to answer questions and provide background information.
- You must have an alternative method of meeting the intent of the code. The appeal must demonstrate how the proposed alternative provides equivalent protection as the code requires for health, accessibility, structural capacity, energy conservation, life safety or fire protection.
- Building Code Appeals apply only to Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Floating Structures Codes. Appeals for each specific Code are processed separately, so a single appeal package may not contain items from different Codes. However, if multiple appeals are submitted together, only the first is charged the full fee, with the others charged as Additional Items at a reduced fee.
- Building code appeals are not land use review appeals.
A complete Building Code Appeal Packet consists of:
- Building, electrical, mechanical or plumbing code appeal application(s)
Plans and any supplemental information
Building Code Appeal Application: The following three sections of the building code appeal application provide the primary information from which the Appeal Board will make a decision. It is critical that information provided in these sections be clear, concise, accurate and completely written. Each appeal submittal must be a comprehensive set of documents and stand on its own merit (without referring to plans or material submitted separately for building permits) and will be reviewed based on the specific conditions related to the project under consideration.
- Code provisions: This section asks first for the code section being appealed and then for the requirements of that code section. It is important to accurately specify the code section being appealed and what it requires.
- Proposed design: This section asks you to describe the actual alternate method and/or materials of construction that are proposed for use. It is important that the actual conditions you are asking to have approved be described. This is not the section where equivalency or rationale for use of the proposed design should occur.
- Reason for alternate: This is the section where you should describe how or why the proposed design provides an equivalent level of fire or life safety to what the code requires and the reason you are requesting the alternate.
Plans: One set of plans that addresses your appeal (in addition to any plans submitted for permit processing) must accompany appeal applications. Plans should provide sufficient information to detail the areas that are being appealed as well as any areas that may be affected by or that may affect the appeal.
Supplemental information: Supplemental information, such as photographs, engineering analysis, test data, etc, that will help to clarify the appeal and make it easier for the board to understand the conditions being appealed or which supports the argument for equivalent safety are welcome accompaniments to the appeal submittal.
Appeal Fees: The following fee must be submitted with the building code appeal application:
- 1 & 2 Family Residential: $227 (up to and including four appeal items) $113 for each appeal item over four
- Other occupancies: $454 (up to and including four appeal items) $113 for each appeal item over four
- Separate appeals with fees must be submitted for each individual building. Contact the Appeal Board Secretary at (503) 823-7335 where there are multiple buildings with identical appeal items.
- Payment may be by cash, check or credit card. Checks should be payable to “Treasurer, City of Portland”.
- Appeal fees for online appeal submittals may also be paid with a pre-registered VISA or MasterCard. The pre-registration form must be completed, faxed per the instructions and approved prior to submitting the appeal.
Your complete Building Code Appeal Packet consists of the Building, Electrical, Mechanical or Plumbing code appeal application(s), Plans and any Supplemental Information, and the Appeal fee.
Appeal Packets will be screened for completeness. Submittal of inaccurate or incomplete forms may cause a delay in hearing the appeal.
You may submit your building code appeal online, by mail or in person.
- Online Appeals applications must be received before 9:00 am Monday to be heard at the following Wednesday’s appeal meeting. However, an appeal may be deferred for hearing at a later date due to the number of appeals scheduled for hearing, the complexity of the appeal being submitted, or other unforeseen factors
- Plans - In addition to your code appeal application, your plans and any supplemental information can be submitted electronically in pdf format along with your online application submittal.
- Fees - Payment of the appropriate appeal fees must be received by 9:00 am on Monday for your appeal to be heard the following Wednesday. If you have a pre-registered VISA or MasterCard on file with BDS, you may indicate electronic payment on the appeal form. The pre-registration form must be completed, faxed per the instructions and approved prior to submitting the appeal.
- If you are unable to submit plans, fees, or supplemental information online you can mail or hand-deliver this material separately to:
Bureau of Development Services
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 5000 (5th floor)
Portland, Oregon 97201
Mailed or hand delivered plans, fees and supplemental information for online appeals must be received by the same 9 am Monday deadline. They must be clearly marked "Appeals" and include the Appeal ID number assigned to your online application submittal so your information is attached to the correct application.
Mail/Hand Delivered Submittal
- Mailed or hand-delivered appeals applications must be received by BDS before 5:00 pm on Friday to be heard at the following Wednesday’s administrative appeal meeting. However, an appeal may be deferred for hearing at a later date due to the number of appeals scheduled for hearing, the complexity of the appeal being submitted, or other unforeseen factors.
- Appeal plans, any supplemental information and your payment of appeal fees must also be received by 5:00 pm on Friday for your appeal to be heard the following Wednesday.
Mail or deliver appeal packets to:
Bureau of Development Services
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 5000 (5th floor)
Portland, Oregon 97201
- For questions regarding the appeal packet submittal, please call (503) 823-7335.
The following describes the Appeal Process.
- Administrative appeals are heard on Wednesdays at 9:00 am. and are closed to the public.
- The Administrative Appeal Board consists of BDS managers and senior staff assigned by the Director, and two representatives from the Fire Bureau.
- Decisions are reached by consensus following an analysis and discussion of the submitted materials. The decision is then recorded and posted on our website. A copy of the decision is emailed or mailed to the appellants.
If the appellant is not satisfied with the Administrative Board’s decision, new or revised information may be submitted for reconsideration, or a request may be made for a hearing with the Board of Appeals.
- To file a reconsideration, follow the same submittal process using the same appeals form. Be certain to indicate at the beginning of the appeal form that you are filing a reconsideration and include the initial assigned Appeal ID number.
- There is no additional fee for the first reconsideration of an Administrative Appeal Board decision.
Board of Appeals
Appellants not satisfied with the Administrative Board’s decision may request a hearing by the Board of Appeals empowered to hear the appeals for the specific code under consideration.
- The Board of Appeals is a volunteer board made up of qualified individuals from the private sector who have knowledge in the specific code area being appealed.
- These boards are referred to as the Building Code Board of Appeals (aka "Big Board"), the Electrical Code Board of Appeal, etc. depending on the code requirement being appealed.
- Hearings before the Board(s) of Appeals are set up on an as needed basis and usually take a minimum of two weeks to schedule. The appellant must be present at this hearing to discuss the appeal with the board.
- There is no additional fee for a hearing with the Board of Appeals.
- To request a hearing with the Board of Appeals, please call the Appeal Board Secretary at (503) 823-7335.
Appeal decisions (Administrative and Board of Appeals) are usually posted the day following the appeal hearing on the BDS Appeals database, and are also available by calling the Appeal Board Secretary at (503) 823-7335.
The Alternative Technology Advisory Committee is made up of citizens who are knowledgeable in sustainable technologies and emerging construction techniques. An applicant wishing to use an emerging, sustainable technology may submit an application to the Committee along with any available test data, case studies, or relevant information that shows how the technology can meet the building code. The Committee will review the submitted information and make a recommendation to the applicant that can be included as part of a building code appeal. Read more about the Alternative Technology Committee.