Building Code Appeals


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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.

Prepare Your Appeal

A complete Building Code Appeal Packet consists of:

  1. Building, electrical, mechanical or plumbing code appeal application(s)
  2. Plans and any supplemental information
  3. Appeal fee

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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:

How to File Your 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 submittal

Bureau of Development Services
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 5000 (5th floor)
Portland, Oregon 97201 

Mailed or hand delivered plans, supplemental information and/or fees 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 

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. 

Fee Payments

The City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services (BDS) is currently working with our payment vendor to improve the security features of our payment system and protect our customers’ personal and financial information. During this process, BDS will be unable to accept pre-registered or fax credit card payments for Building Code Appeals.   

Until that time, Building Code Appeal Fees can be paid by mail or in person. 

Appeal Process

The following describes the Appeal Process.

Administrative Review

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.

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.

Appeal Results

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.

Appeal Records

Applications and Handouts

Alternative Technology Committee

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.