Building Codes

Building Codes

Whether you are a rule follower or not, building codes can be confusing and frustrating. But it’s important to remember that these codes were put in place to protect you by making sure the build process and overall structure is safe. Over the last century, industry organizations and the US government have studied failed builds to discover what led to those failures. With this information, they can then establish codes to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Updating codes and enforcing safe practices is critical to safe structures throughout our country—with both commercial and residential buildings.

What is a Building Code?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an organization that has studied building codes for more than 50 years, defines building codes as “laws that set minimum requirements for how structural systems, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), natural gas systems and other aspects of residential and commercial buildings should be designed and constructed.” These codes usually start off with a universal draft language, called “model code,” and then organizations will tailor them to what their city or state requires. As gaps or errors are exposed, updates take place, but this can take years to finalize. Organizations with committees that produce these standards follow the guidelines as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These guidelines generally include balanced representations from various contributors, such as builders, manufacturers, building officials, researchers, etc., in an attempt to minimize dominance from a single group.

During the update process, anyone can submit a proposal to change a code. It’s common for ANSI to release a public review for comment, and they must address all public comments by providing technical explanations. Following the public comment period, another hearing takes place to resolve every single submitted comment and concern. NIST states: “This group, largely composed of building officials from around the country who use model codes, votes on how to respond to public comments, providing the final word on what will be included in the next edition of a model code.” After these committees and experts discuss investigations and findings, new versions of the standards and codes are published. This is typically released every three to six years. Model codes are important to keep updated as many government agencies use them as the base for their city codes, and they help to streamline design and build processes in our country.

How This Affects Your Build

When lawmakers adopt certain model codes, inspectors will use these to assess the safety of a structure. Codes vary state to state and often city to city. For example, California’s codes may be geared more toward earthquake safety while Florida may lean more toward hurricane or flooding protections. Some codes may be costly, and a code for your area may not seem applicable to your personal build. But know that these codes went through intense scrutiny before getting passed and they are intended as a checks and balances for the company building your home or business. At Butterfield Builders, we follow the latest codes and take care to understand each one to ensure the safest build for you.