Pool/Spa Code Stakeholder Engagement

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The City of Austin is adopting the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) on September 1, 2020, as mandated by the State of Texas. The City is proposing a few minor amendments to the model code regarding chain link fencing, authority, and processes. This page serves to provide you information about these changes.

The City of Austin is adopting the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) on September 1, 2020, as mandated by the State of Texas. The City is proposing a few minor amendments to the model code regarding chain link fencing, authority, and processes. This page serves to provide you information about these changes.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
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    It is reported that State of Texas has mandated the City to enact these changes. Which state statute mandates this change and/or requires that he city adopt the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC)? If there is a conflict between the Texas Department of Health Standards for Swimming Pools and Spas and the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) which prevails? For example, Texas requires an emergency shut-off for the spa only, but the ISPSC seems to require an emergency shutoff for all facilities not just the spa. Similarly, what about any differences between the codes regarding pool deck step and fence gap dimensions? Does the city require a dedicated poolside phone line and phone to report emergencies?

    Paul Cauduro Asked 3 months ago

    1. It is reported that State of Texas has mandated the City to enact these changes. Which state statute mandates this change and/or requires that he city adopt the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC)?

    HB 2858 passed 2019-06-14, with an effective date of September 1, 2020. Click here for additional information about this bill.


    2. If there is a conflict between the Texas Department of Health Standards for Swimming Pools and Spas and the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) which prevails? For example, Texas requires an emergency shut-off for the spa only, but the ISPSC seems to require an emergency shutoff for all facilities not just the spa.

    The Swimming Pool and Spa code provides guidance in sections 102.7, 102.8, and 102.9. When there is a conflict between local and state or international code, the more stringent code will prevail. Current TDSHS Standards for Swimming Pools and Spas (commercial) requires an emergency shut-off (ESO) for swimming pools through Texas Administrative Code section 265.192 and applicable local electrical codes. The current National Electric Code (NEC) has been adopted by the City of Austin. The ISPSC requires the ESO for areas of the State not currently using the updated NEC. Generally, local codes can be more stringent than state health and safety codes but not less stringent.


    3. Similarly, what about any differences between the codes regarding pool deck step and fence gap dimensions? Does the city require a dedicated poolside phone line and phone to report emergencies?

    Pool deck steps will be subject to local building codes where applicable. Otherwise, the ISPSC requirements will prevail. Pool yard enclosures covered by Texas Health & Safety Code Ch. 757 will remain in effect for commercial facilities. For residential purposes, only ISPSC will apply. ISPSC has provided more stringent requirements for the use and type of construction materials for enclosures versus traditional enclosure code contained in TDSHS Standards 265.200. The ISPSC provides similar guidance for step and deck materials. Pool phone requirements apply as outlined by Texas Administrative Code 265.199 (j).

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    1) There are multiple references to "Proposed amendments to City Code Section 10-7 [provisions relocated or superseded by proposed International Pool and Spa Code adoption]" ... if relocated, to where? This is too much of a scavenger hunt... would be helpful to have code section references to be able to more quickly / easily found. 2) Where can I find the definition of "structurally alter"? It is used within the amendment document, but not defined within this document nor within the 2018 ISPSC. 3) Need clarification on the types of decking material allowed within 4 feet of the pool edge. Local pool plan reviewer has been inconsistent, sometimes allowing wood, sometimes not, and sometimes only allowing certain species of wood. Modified wood products need to be addressed as the technology has greatly changed and improved (in terms of stability and durability) recently. This must be resolved so designers know exactly what to specify and understand what will be approved during the plan review process and what will be accepted during site inspections by the City’s building/health officials (AHJ). 4) Need clarification on ADA-allowable "transfer benches" as an edge condition to pools in Austin. These are known to have been approved and constructed in Dallas and San Antonio (which operate under the same State code); however, are not allowed here by the current pool reviewer/inspector. This needs to be definitively clarified as A) allowable (and if with conditions, those specified) or B) prohibited by the City. 5) 2018 ISPSC 406.5 Deck Covering - It would be helpful to identify an acceptable threshold or definition of "slip resistant". The tile industry has become more current in the usage of ‘dynamic’, instead of the previous ‘static’, coefficient of friction - perhaps the City could follow similar standards? 6) 2018 ISPSC 321.2.2 Illumination Intensity - the criteria for deck area lighting is stated as being required “at the walking surface of the deck”. Can the City please clarify whether this only applies to the required deck area (within 4 feet of the pool edge) or across the entire walkable area within the pool enclosure? (This should also exclude landscape planting areas.) There are many amenity pool terraces in which higher light levels are appropriate near the pool, but other lounging and dining areas (such as cabanas) can still be located within the pool enclosure, but very far from the actual pool area and be sufficiently and safely illuminated at a lower intensity. It seems reasonable to require the deck area (within 4 feet of the pool edge) and an accessible route (3 feet wide) to each of the required (due to life safety egress) exits along the pool enclosure to be illuminated per 321.2.2, and exclude all other areas from this requirement.

    jradcliff Asked 3 months ago

    1. There are multiple references to "Proposed amendments to City Code Section 10-7 [provisions relocated or superseded by proposed International Pool and Spa Code adoption]" ... if relocated, to where? This is too much of a scavenger hunt... would be helpful to have code section references to be able to more quickly / easily found.

    The code amendment summary has been updated to include these code references.


    2. Where can I find the definition of "structurally alter"? It is used within the amendment document, but not defined within this document nor within the 2018 ISPSC.

    “Structurally alter” is a term utilized throughout City Code. The text currently exists in 10-7-62 and is being relocated to 104.11.7 of the ISPSC. ISPSC Section 202 defines an “Alteration”. ISPSC Section 201.4 provides flexibility for terms not explicitly defined. The language from both sections are included below.

    201.4 Terms not defined. Where terms are not defined through the methods authorized by this section, such terms shall have ordinarily accepted meanings such as the context implies.

    202 Definitions. ALTERATION. Any construction or renovation to an existing pool or spa other than repair.


    3. Need clarification on the types of decking material allowed within 4 feet of the pool edge. Local pool plan reviewer has been inconsistent, sometimes allowing wood, sometimes not, and sometimes only allowing certain species of wood. Modified wood products need to be addressed as the technology has greatly changed and improved (in terms of stability and durability) recently. This must be resolved so designers know exactly what to specify and understand what will be approved during the plan review process and what will be accepted during site inspections by the City’s building/health officials.

    Since 2000, Austin Public Health has permitted only the use of Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood, and Trex, within 4 feet of a swimming pool as a local adjustment to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) Standards for Swimming Pools and Spas.


    4. Need clarification on ADA-allowable "transfer benches" as an edge condition to pools in Austin. These are known to have been approved and constructed in Dallas and San Antonio (which operate under the same State code); however, are not allowed here by the current pool reviewer/inspector. This needs to be definitively clarified as A) allowable (and if with conditions, those specified) or B) prohibited by the City.

    Transfer benches have been installed on commercial projects in the City of Austin when design parameters have permitted. Transfer benches are not common but have been designed into a spa that is raised above floor level and located adjacent to a vanishing edge where the swimming pool decking provides a compliant change of grade. At all times required decking is to be maintained. This feature is identified during plan examination and review. Discussion with the review team is welcome at any time, including prior to formal submittal.


    5. 2018 ISPSC 406.5 Deck Covering - It would be helpful to identify an acceptable threshold or definition of "slip resistant". The tile industry has become more current in the usage of ‘dynamic’, instead of the previous ‘static’, coefficient of friction - perhaps the City could follow similar standards?

    The manufacturing standards, testing, and/ or documentation of the final finish for tile surfaces under recommended conditions for a product is performed by the manufacturer. Any issue with the data provided by the manufacturer must be directed to and addressed by the manufacturer.


    6. 2018 ISPSC 321.2.2 Illumination Intensity - the criteria for deck area lighting is stated as being required “at the walking surface of the deck”. Can the City please clarify whether this only applies to the required deck area (within 4 feet of the pool edge) or across the entire walkable area within the pool enclosure? (This should also exclude landscape planting areas.) There are many amenity pool terraces in which higher light levels are appropriate near the pool, but other lounging and dining areas (such as cabanas) can still be located within the pool enclosure, but very far from the actual pool area and be sufficiently and safely illuminated at a lower intensity. It seems reasonable to require the deck area (within 4 feet of the pool edge) and an accessible route (3 feet wide) to each of the required (due to life safety egress) exits along the pool enclosure to be illuminated per 321.2.2, and exclude all other areas from this requirement.

    Required pool deck lighting levels apply to the minimum required decking as defined for each Class of pool.

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    Section 25-8-63: Section 6, Subsection 6, Impervious Cover Calculations, states that "the water surface area of a GROUND LEVEL pool, fountain, and pond" are exempt from calculations. This code section differentiates between ground level and above ground pools, will there be a distinction under definitions between ground level and above ground pools? Section 25-12-241, section 7, states that "a swimming pool that is prefabricated and less than 24" deep is exempt from a BP, is this consistent wit 2018 ISPSC? Section 25-8-341: Cut requirements states "swimming pool" - for clarification is a swimming pool consistent with the definitions under the 2018 ISPSC? can a swimming pool be ground level and above ground? I have recently worked on a permit for an above ground pool, it seems that a lot of these pools are treated different by City review staff, but there is nothing in the code to formally process these and reviewing can be very messy and confusing, it would be good to take this opportunity to provide clear direction on how to permit these above ground pools.

    PermitSolutions Asked 4 months ago

    1. Section 25-8-63, Section 6, Subsection 6, Impervious Cover Calculations, states that "the water surface area of a GROUND LEVEL pool, fountain, and pond" are exempt from calculations. This code section differentiates between ground level and above ground pools. Will there be a distinction under definitions between ground level and above ground pools?

    The adoption of the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) will not affect the application of requirements within City Code Section 25-8-63 Impervious Cover Calculations. Per ISPSC Section 201.1 Scope, shown below, the words and terms within the ISPSC are stated for the purposes of that code, which is located within 25-12. 

    201.1 Scope. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following words and terms shall, for the purposes of this code, have the meanings shown in this chapter. 

    Above ground and in ground pools are considered pervious cover per the Environmental Criteria Manual Section 1.8.1.C: Impervious cover calculations exclude the water surface area of ground level (including in ground and above ground) pools, fountains, and ponds. 

    The only distinction between grades in the ISPSC is mentioned in the scope of Chapters 7 and 8, which are included below. 

    701.1 Scope. This chapter describes certain criteria for the design, manufacturing, and testing of on-ground, storable pools intended for residential use. This includes portable pools with flexible or non-rigid side walls that achieve their structural integrity by means of uniform shape, support frame or a combination thereof. Also included in this chapter are pools that can be disassembled for storage or relocation. This chapter includes what has been commonly referred to in past standards or codes as on-ground or above-ground pools. 

    801.1 Scope. The provisions of this chapter govern permanent In-ground residential swimming pools. Permanent in-ground residential swimming pools shall include pools that are partially or entirely above grade. This chapter does not cover pools that are specifically manufactured for above-ground use and that are capable of being disassembled and stored. This chapter covers new construction, modification and repair of in-ground residential swimming pools.


    2. Section 25-12-241, Section 7, states that "a swimming pool that is prefabricated and less than 24" deep is exempt from a building permit (BP). Is this consistent with the 2018 ISPSC?

    Yes, they are consistent.


    3. Section 25-8-341 Cut Requirements, states "swimming pool". For clarification, is a swimming pool consistent with the definitions under the 2018 ISPSC?

    The adoption of the ISPSC will not affect the application of requirements within LDC 25-8-341 Cut Requirements. Per ISPSC Section 201.1 Scope, shown below, the words and terms within the ISPSC are stated for the purposes of that code, which is located within 25-12. 

    201.1 Scope. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following words and terms shall, for the purposes of this code, have the meanings shown in this chapter. The general definition of swimming pool is taken from the Building Code. See below. 

    General Definition from the Building Code SWIMMING POOL. Any structure intended for swimming, recreational bathing or wading that contains water over 24 inches (610 mm) deep. This includes in-ground, above ground and on-ground pools; hot tubs; spas and fixed-in-place wading pools. 

    Specific Definitions from the Swimming Pool and Spa Code 

    PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL (Public Pool). A pool, other than a residential pool, that is intended to be used for swimming or bathing and is operated by an owner, lessee, operator, licensee or concessionaire, regardless of whether a fee is charged for use. 

    Public pools shall be further classified and defined as follows: 

    RESIDENTIAL SWIMMING POOL (Residential Pool). A pool intended for use that is accessory to a residential setting and available only to the household and its guests. Other pools shall be considered to be public pools for purposes of this code.


    4. Can a swimming pool be ground level and above ground?

    A swimming pool can be above or at grade level. For more detail, see ISPSC Section 801.1.


    5. I have recently worked on a permit for an above ground pool. It seems that a lot of these pools are treated different by City review staff, but there is nothing in the code to formally process these and reviewing can be very messy and confusing. It would be good to take this opportunity to provide clear direction on how to permit these above ground pools.

    This comment was submitted to us with the questions regarding compliance with City Code Section 25-8 Environment. The Development Services Department has forwarded this suggestion to the Environmental Review and Residential Review work units to improve review consistency in relation to swimming pools and City Code Section 25-8.

    Should you have concerns with regard to the permitting process of above ground pools in compliance with existing City Code Chapters 10-7 or 25-12, through the Development Services Department Commercial Plan Review or Austin Public Health, please forward your question with more specificity about the project or project(s) to DSDEngagementUnit@austintexas.gov.