Building Code

Based on agreed upon safety standards within a specific area, a building code is a regulation that determines the design, construction, and materials used in building.

A building code, or building control, is a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for constructed objects such as buildings and nonbuilding structures. The main purpose of building codes are to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code becomes law of a particular jurisdiction when formally enacted by the appropriate authority. Building codes are generally intended to be applied by architects and engineers although this is not the case in the UK where Building Control Surveyors act as verifiers both in the public and private sector (Approved Inspectors), but are also used for various purposes by safety inspectors, environmental scientists, real estate developers, contractors and subcontractors, manufacturers of building products and materials, insurance companies, facility managers, tenants, and others. There are often additional codes or sections of the same building code that have more specific requirements that apply to dwellings and special construction objects such as canopies, signs, pedestrian walkways, parking lots, and radio and television antennas. The practice of developing, approving, and enforcing building codes varies considerably among nations. In some countries building codes are developed by the government agencies or quasi-governmental standards organizations and then enforced across the country by the central government. Such codes are known as the national building codes (in a sense they enjoy a mandatory nation-wide application). In other countries, where the power of regulating construction and fire safety is vested in local authorities, a system of model building codes is used. Model building codes have no legal status unless adopted or adapted by an authority having jurisdiction. The developers of model codes urge public authorities to reference model codes in their laws, ordinances, regulations, and administrative orders. When referenced in any of these legal instruments, a particular model code becomes law. This practice is known as adoption by reference. When an adopting authority decides to delete, add, or revise any portions of the model code adopted, it is usually required by the model code developer to follow a formal adoption procedure in which those modifications can be documented for legal purposes. There are instances when some local jurisdictions choose to develop their own building codes. At some point in time all major cities in the United States had their own building codes. However due to ever increasing complexity and cost of developing building regulations, virtually all municipalities in the country have chosen to adopt model codes instead. For example, in 2008 New York City abandoned its proprietary 1968 New York City Building Code in favor of a customized version of the International Building Code. The City of Chicago remains the only municipality in America that continues to use a building code the city developed on its own as part of the Municipal Code of Chicago. Similarly, in India, each municipality and urban development authority has its own building code, which is mandatory for all construction within their jurisdiction. All these local building codes are variants of a National Building Code, which serves as model code proving guidelines for regulating building construction activity. Building codes generally include:Building codes are generally separate from zoning ordinances, but exterior restrictions (such as setbacks) may fall into either category. These requirements are usually a combination of prescriptive requirements that spell out exactly how something is to be done, and performance requirements which just outline what the required level of performance is and leave it up to the designer how this is achieved. Historically they are very reactive in that when a problem occurs the building codes change to ensure that the problem never happens again. In recent years there has been a move amongst most of the building codes to move to more performance requirements and less prescriptive requirements. Traditionally building codes were generally short non complex interrelated sets of rules. They generally included reference to hundreds of other codes, standards and guidelines that specify the details of the component or system design, specify testing requirements for components, or outline good engineering practice. These detailed codes required a great deal of specialization to interpret, and also greatly constrained change and innovation in building design. In recent years several countries, beginning with Australia, have moved to much shorter objective based buildings codes. Rather than prescribing specific details, objective codes lists a series of objectives all buildings must meet while leaving open how these objectives will be met. When applying for a building permit the designers must demonstrate how they meet each objective. Building codes have a long history. What is generally accepted as the first building code was in the Code of Hammurabi which specified:The Law of Moses stipulated a specific construction requirement which is also an early form of a building code. The Bible book of Deuteronomy, chapter 22 verse 8, states:The great changes in societies in Europe, the Industrial Revolution, the end of slavery in the United States, and immigration to the United States brought about the enactment of a number of building laws during the nineteenth century. Baltimore passed its first building code in 1859. The Great Baltimore Fire occurred in February, 1904. Subsequent changes were made that matched other cities. In 1904, a Handbook of the Baltimore City Building Laws was published. It served as the building code for four years. Very soon, a formal building code was drafted and eventually adopted in 1908. In Paris, great blocks of apartments were erected under the Second Empire (1852–70). The height of buildings was limited by law, so they were usually five or six stories at most. Germany and Austria generally followed the French plan. The most important statutes of this kind in the United Kingdom were the London Building Act of 1844 and the Public Health Act of 1875. The Metropolitan Buildings Office was established in 1845. The major model building codes used in the United States are developed by the International Code Council (ICC), the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code, the International Fire Code, the International Energy Conservation Code, the International Plumbing Code, the International Mechanical Code and others.