Policy statements are published in an effort to provide consistency in the interpretation and application of the code by the Chief Building Official. Policy statements are developed through a collaboration with other members of the construction industry and are open to amendment when new products/information becomes available or clarifications are provided by the authors of the code. These determinations will be generated as sections of the adopted codes and ordinances are identified, either through the plans review process or during field inspections, as having multiple interpretations which could affect the course of a project.

2022-1: City Policy for lot line openings and projections over lot lines

  • Issuer: Peter Ahrens – Plans Review & Inspections Director
  • Date: 5/2/2022
  • Purpose: To clarify City policy for lot line openings and projections over lot lines

Redevelopment throughout the City of Knoxville – specifically in the Downtown area has revealed the desire to introduce window openings in walls located on property lines with adjacent private property.  These openings add value to development, but must be constructed in a safe manner.  As such, the following requirements are to be noted:

  1. Openings cannot be emergency escape and rescue openings as required in 2018 IBC 1031.
  2. Projections cannot be exits as required in 2018 IBC 1021 or 1027.
  3. An easement must be recorded between impacted property owners in order to establish an imaginary line by which fire separation distance is measured.
  4. Any interior alterations may not create a required exit or emergency exit or rescue opening utilizing an existing opening or projection on the property line. 


2022-2: City Policy for AFCI Requirements

  • Issuer: Peter Ahrens - Plans Review & Inspections Director
  • Date: 7/22/2022
  • Purpose: To clarify City policy for AFCI requirements

Minor repairs and work to 1 and 2 family dwellings and townhouses not over 3 stories are common and need not be overly burdensome. Clarification of minimum requirements is necessary to maintain consistency and provide guidelines for installation and inspection of replacement items. 

IRC 3902.17 Arc-fault circuit-interrupter protection for branch circuit extensions or modifications. 

Where branch circuit wiring is modified, replaced, or extended in any of the areas specified in Section E3902.16, the branch circuit shall be protected by one of the following: 

  1. A combination-type AFCI located at the origin of the branch circuit.
  2. An outlet branch-circuit type AFCI located at the first receptacle outlet of the existing branch circuit. [210.12(B)] 

Exception: AFCI protection shall not be required where the extension of the existing conductors is not more than 6 feet (1.8 m) in length and does not include any additional outlets or devices. 


2022-3: City Policy for Smoke Detector Requirements

  • Issuer: Peter Ahrens - Plans Review & Inspections Director
  • Date: 7/22/2022
  • Purpose: To clarify City policy for Smoke Detector Requirements in IRC buildings

Repairs and minor work to 1 and 2 family dwellings and townhouses not over 3 stories are common and need not be overly burdensome. Clarification of minimum requirements is necessary to maintain consistency and provide guidelines for installation and inspection of replacement items. 

The intent of the International Residential Code is to establish minimum requirements to safeguard the public safety, health and general welfare through affordability, structural strength, means of egress facilities, stability, sanitation, light and ventilation, energy conservation and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment, and to provide safety to fire fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations.

The building official shall have the authority to render interpretations of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations, policies and procedures shall be in compliance with the intent and purpose of this code.

Appendix J regulates the repair, renovation alteration and reconstruction of existing buildings that are within the scope of this code. It is intended to encourage the continued safe use of existing buildings and ensure that new work conforms to the intent of the code and that existing conditions remain at their current level of compliance or are improved.

Using Appendix J as a guideline, the requirement for smoke alarms references section R314.2.2 which is specifically the location requirement for smoke alarms.

  • AJ102.3 Smoke detectors. Regardless of the category of work, smoke alarms shall be provided where required by Section R314.2.2.
  • R314.2.2 Alterations, repairs and additions. Where alterations, repairs or additions requiring a permit occur, the individual dwelling unit shall be equipped with smoke alarms located as required for new dwellings.


  1. Work involving the exterior surfaces of dwellings, such as the replacement of roofing or siding, the addition or replacement of windows or doors, or the addition of a porch or deck. 
  2. Installation, alteration or repairs of plumbing or mechanical systems.

The policy of the City of Knoxville Building Department, in line with the International Residential Code, using Appendix J as a guideline, and in conjunction with the City of Knoxville Fire Department smoke alarm program requires smoke alarms to be installed in the locations only as stated in R314.2 when work is performed inside an existing dwelling. The smoke alarms are not required to be interconnected and may be battery powered unless otherwise stated on the permit. This policy is in line with general repairs and maintenance that do not require a building permit. Exemptions for this requirement are stated above and include but are not limited to work on exterior surfaces of dwellings and work that involves plumbing or mechanical systems unless otherwise stated.

COK Fire Alarm program

2018 International Residential Code 



2022-4: Coming Soon

Information coming soon

2022-5: City Policy for Electrical Service Connection

  • Issuer: Peter Ahrens - Plans Review and Inspections Director
  • Date: 7/26/2022
  • Purpose: To clarify City policy for Electrical Service Connection

NEC 90.1(A) & (B) state: (A) Practical Safeguarding. The purpose of this Code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. (B) Adequacy. This Code contains provisions that are considered necessary for safety. Compliance therewith and proper maintenance result in an installation that is essentially free from hazard but not necessarily efficient, convenient, or adequate for good service or future expansion of electrical use.

Requirements for service connection are not clearly defined in the NEC or IRC. NEC 90.4 along with IRC R104.1 give the building official and the authority having jurisdiction the responsibility to make informed interpretations of the code. The codes apply a level of safety deemed to be in accordance with international standards. 

NEC 230.70 and IRC E3601.6.1 state that means shall be provided to disconnect all conductors in a building or other structure from the service entrance conductors. 

NEC 110.12. (B) and IRC E3404.7 Integrity of Electrical Equipment and Connections. Internal parts of electrical equipment, including busbars, wiring terminals, insulators, and other surfaces, shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues. There shall be no damaged parts that may adversely affect safe operation or mechanical strength of the equipment such as parts that are broken; bent; cut; or deteriorated by corrosion, chemical action, or overheating.

NEC 110.27 (B) and IRC E3404.10 Prevent Physical Damage. In locations where electrical equipment is likely to be exposed to physical damage, enclosures or guards shall be so arranged and of such strength as to prevent such damage.

NEC 590.1 Scope. The provisions of this article apply to temporary electric power and lighting installations.

The policy of the City of Knoxville Building Department for release of power to energize a service during construction is either of the two options but not a simultaneous use of both.

  1. Temporary power for a construction site shall be provided per NEC Article 590 and local utility requirements
  2. Service release may be provided at the discretion of the inspector upon verification of the following items:

a. All service entrance conductors may be disconnected per NEC 230.70 and IRC E3601.61. 

b. All 125 volt, single phase, 15-, 20-, or 30-ampere receptacles to be installed for use during construction must be provided with GFCI protection. 

c. The integrity of all electrical equipment and connections must be maintained and will be subject to inspection at any time. 

d. All conductors connected to the busbar must terminate in a device, appliance, junction box, or other approved connection.

If any unsafe conditions are discovered during the inspection process the inspector reserves the right to contact the utility and have power removed.