Building code

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Code Violation: This fire-rated concrete block wall is penetrated by cable trays and electrical cables. The hole should be firestopped to restore the fire-resistance rating of the wall. Instead, it is filled with flammable polyurethane foam. Puf canadian paper mill.jpg
Code Violation: This fire-rated concrete block wall is penetrated by cable trays and electrical cables. The hole should be firestopped to restore the fire-resistance rating of the wall. Instead, it is filled with flammable polyurethane foam.

A building code (also building control or building regulations) is a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects such as buildings and nonbuilding structures. Buildings must conform to the code to obtain planning permission, usually from a local council. The main purpose of building codes is 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 governmental or private authority. [1]

Building structure, typically with a roof and walls, standing more or less permanently in one place

A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions, and have been adapted throughout history for a wide number of factors, from building materials available, to weather conditions, land prices, ground conditions, specific uses, and aesthetic reasons. To better understand the term building compare the list of nonbuilding structures.

Planning permission government permission required for construction or expansion

Planning permission or developmental approval refers to the approval needed for construction or expansion in some jurisdictions. It is usually given in the form of a building permit. Generally, the new construction must be inspected during construction and after completion to ensure compliance with national, regional, and local building codes. Planning is also dependent on the site's zone – for example, one cannot obtain permission to build a nightclub in an area where it is inappropriate such as a high-density suburb. Failure to obtain a permit can result in fines, penalties, and demolition of unauthorized construction if it cannot be made to meet code. House building permits, for example, are subject to local housing statutes. The criteria for planning permission are a part of urban planning and construction law, and are usually managed by town planners employed by local governments. Since building permits usually precede outlays for construction, employment, financing and furnishings, they are often used as a leading indicator for developments in other areas of the economy.

Public health preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society and individuals

Public health has been defined as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals". Analyzing the health of a population and the threats it faces is the basis for public health. The public can be as small as a handful of people or as large as a village or an entire city; in the case of a pandemic it may encompass several continents. The concept of health takes into account physical, psychological and social well-being. As such, according to the World Health Organization, it is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


Building codes are generally intended to be applied by architects, engineers, interior designers, constructors and regulators but are also used for various purposes by safety inspectors, environmental scientists, real estate developers, subcontractors, manufacturers of building products and materials, insurance companies, facility managers, tenants, and others. Codes regulate the design and construction of structures where adopted into law.

Architect Person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

Engineer Professional practitioner of engineering and its sub classes

Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfill objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice and passage of engineering board examinations.

A regulatory agency is a public authority or government agency responsible for exercising autonomous authority over some area of human activity in a regulatory or supervisory capacity. An independent regulatory agency is a regulatory agency that is independent from other branches or arms of the government.

Examples of building codes began in ancient times. [2] In the USA the main codes are the International Commercial or Residential Code [ICC/IRC], electrical codes and plumbing, mechanical codes. Fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the I-Codes at the state or jurisdictional level. [3] In Canada, national model codes are published by the National Research Council of Canada. [4]

The International Building Code (IBC) is a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC). It has been adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States. It may also be used in Abu Dhabi, the Caribbean Community, Colombia, Georgia, Honduras, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The IBC addresses both health and safety concerns for buildings based upon prescriptive and performance related requirements. The IBC is fully compatible with all other published ICC codes. The code provisions are intended to protect public health and safety while avoiding both unnecessary costs and preferential treatment of specific materials or methods of construction.


"Sutyagin's skyscraper" (Neboskriob Sutiagina) - supposedly world's tallest wooden single-family house - found to be in violation of fire codes by the city of Arkhangelsk, Russia, and was demolished. Sutyagin house 1.JPG
"Sutyagin's skyscraper" (Небоскрёб Сутягина) – supposedly world's tallest wooden single-family house – found to be in violation of fire codes by the city of Arkhangelsk, Russia, and was demolished.

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 nationwide application).

A central government is the government that holds absolute supremacy over a unitary state. Its equivalent in a federation is the federal government, which may have distinct powers at various levels authorized or delegated to it by its federated states, though the adjective 'central' is sometimes also used to describe it.

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.

Safety state of being secure from harm, injury, danger or risk

Safety is the state of being "safe", the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes. Safety can also refer to the control of recognized hazards in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk.

A model building code is a building code that is developed and maintained by a standards organization independent of the jurisdiction responsible for enacting the building code. A local government can choose to adopt a model building code as their own. This saves local governments the expense and trouble of developing their own codes. Many smaller governments lack the expertise to do so.

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. [7] 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 .

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe, which is 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Chicago city and county seat of Cook County, Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most-populous city in the U.S. state of Illinois and the third-most-populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,705,994 (2018), it is also the most-populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second-most-populous county in the US, and portions of the city extend westward into neighboring DuPage County. It is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland. At nearly 10 million people, the metropolitan area is the third-most-populous in the nation.

Municipality An administrative division having corporate status and usually some powers of self-government or jurisdiction

A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. It is to be distinguished (usually) from the county, which may encompass rural territory or numerous small communities such as towns, villages and hamlets.

In Europe, the Eurocode is a pan-European building code that has superseded the older national building codes. Each country now has National Annexes to localize the contents of the Eurocode.

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 have a long history. The earliest known written building code is included in the Code of Hammurabi, [2] which dates from circa 1772 BC.

The book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible stipulated that parapets must be constructed on all houses to prevent people from falling off. [8]

Modern era

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, which had been able to spread so rapidly through the densely built timber housing of the city, the Rebuilding of London Act was passed in the same year as the first significant building regulation. [9] Drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale, the Act regulated the rebuilding of the city, required housing to have some fire resistance capacity and authorised the City of London Corporation to reopen and widen roads. [10] The Laws of the Indies were passed in the 1680s by the Spanish Crown to regulate the urban planning for colonies throughout Spain's worldwide imperial possessions.

The first systematic national building standard was established with the London Building Act of 1844. Among the provisions, builders were required to give the district surveyor two days' notice before building, regulations regarding the thickness of walls, height of rooms, the materials used in repairs, the dividing of existing buildings and the placing and design of chimneys, fireplaces and drains were to be enforced and streets had to be built to minimum requirements. [11]

The Metropolitan Buildings Office was formed to regulate the construction and use of buildings throughout London. Surveyors were empowered to enforce building regulations, which sought to improve the standard of houses and business premises, and to regulate activities that might threaten public health. In 1855 the assets, powers and responsibilities of the office passed to the Metropolitan Board of Works.

The City of Baltimore passed its first building code in 1859. The Great Baltimore Fire occurred in February, 1904. Subsequent changes were made that matched other cities. [12] 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, under the reconstruction of much of the city under the Second Empire (1852–70), great blocks of apartments were erected [13] and the height of buildings was limited by law to five or six stories at most.

The structural failure of the tank that caused the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 prompted the Boston Building Department to require engineering and architectural calculations be filed and signed. U.S. cities and states soon began requiring sign-off by registered professional engineers for the plans of major buildings. [14]


The purpose of building codes is to provide minimum standards for safety, health, and general welfare including structural integrity, mechanical integrity (including sanitation, water supply, light, and ventilation), means of egress, fire prevention and control, and energy conservation. [15] [16] Building codes generally include:

Building codes are generally separate from zoning ordinances, but exterior restrictions (such as setbacks) may fall into either category.

Designers use building code standards out of substantial reference books during design. Building departments review plans submitted to them before construction, issue permits [or not] and inspectors verify compliance to these standards at the site during construction.

There are often additional codes or sections of the same building code that have more specific requirements that apply to dwellings or places of business and special construction objects such as canopies, signs, pedestrian walkways, parking lots, and radio and television antennas.

Current Codes

Energy codes in the United States

The energy codes of the United States are adopted at the state and municipal levels and are based on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Previously, they were based on the Model Energy Code (MEC).

As of March 2017, the following residential codes have been partially or fully adopted by states: [17]

Historical Codes

Energy codes in the United States


As of September 2005, the following residential energy codes had been partially or fully adopted by states: [18]

  • 2003-2004 IECC or equivalent (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington)
  • 1998-2001 IECC or equivalent (Alabama, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin)
  • <1998 IECC (Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee)
  • No statewide code / weaker (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming)


As of January 2004, the following residential energy codes had been partially or fully adopted by states: [18]

  • 2003 IECC or IRC (Kansas, New Mexico, Utah)
  • 2000 IECC or IRC or equivalent (Alabama, California, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin)
  • 1998 IECC (Oklahoma)
  • 1995 MEC or equivalent (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont)
  • 1993 MEC or equivalent (Delaware, Montana, North Dakota)
  • 1992 MEC or equivalent (Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee)
  • No code or code not EPAct compliant (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming)


As of Fall 2000, the following residential energy codes had been partially or fully adopted by states: [18]

  • 2000 IECC rule making (Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina)
  • 1995 MEC or equivalent (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
  • 1993 MEC or equivalent (Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota)
  • 1992 MEC or equivalent (Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee)
  • No code or code not EPAct compliant (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia)


As of 1998, three states (Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia) had adopted the 1993 MEC residential energy code. The remaining states had adopted either: a state-written code; a regional code; a prior version of the MEC or American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers standards; or no code at all. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fire marshal Person who inspects buildings for fire safety

A Fire Marshal or fire commissioner, in the United States and Canada, is often a member of a state, provincial or territorial government, but may be part of a building department or a separate department altogether. Fire marshals' duties vary but usually include fire code enforcement or investigating fires for origin and cause. Fire marshals may be sworn law-enforcement officers and are often experienced firefighters. In larger cities with substantially developed fire departments the local fire departments are sometimes delegated some of the duties of the fire marshal.

National Electrical Code

The National Electrical Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, is a regionally adoptable standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the United States. It is part of the National Fire Code series published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a private trade association. Despite the use of the term "national", it is not a federal law. It is typically adopted by states and municipalities in an effort to standardize their enforcement of safe electrical practices. In some cases, the NEC is amended, altered and may even be rejected in lieu of regional regulations as voted on by local governing bodies.

The National Building Code of Canada is the model building code of Canada. It is issued by National Research Council Canada. As a model code, it has no legal status until it is adopted by a jurisdiction that regulates construction.

The publication Life Safety Code, known as NFPA 101, is a consensus standard widely adopted in the United States. It is administered, trademarked, copyrighted, and published by the National Fire Protection Association and, like many NFPA documents, is systematically revised on a three-year cycle.

The eurocodes are the ten European standards specifying how structural design should be conducted within the European Union (EU). These were developed by the European Committee for Standardisation upon the request of the European Commission.

(See also the Form-based section of the Zoning in the United States article.)

Building regulations in the United Kingdom are statutory instruments or statutory regulations that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out. Building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK. Building regulations that apply across England and Wales are set out in the Building Act 1984 while those that apply across Scotland are set out in the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. The Act in England and Wales permits detailed regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. The regulations made under the Act have been periodically updated, rewritten or consolidated, with the latest and current version being the Building Regulations 2010. The UK Government is responsible for the relevant legislation and administration in England, the Welsh Government is the responsible body in Wales, the Scottish Government is responsible for the issue in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Executive has responsibility within its jurisdiction. There are very similar Building Regulations in the Republic of Ireland.

SmartCode is a unified land development ordinance template for planning and urban design. Originally developed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, this open source program is a model form-based unified land development ordinance designed to create walkable neighborhoods across the full spectrum of human settlement, from the most rural to the most urban, incorporating a transect of character and intensity within each. It folds zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, and basic architectural standards into one compact document. Because the SmartCode enables community vision by coding specific outcomes that are desired in particular places, it is meant to be locally calibrated by professional planners, architects, and attorneys.

Building officials of developed countries are generally the jurisdictional administrator of building and construction codes, engineering calculation supervision, permits, facilities management, and accepted construction procedures.

Zoning in the United States

Zoning in the United States includes various land use laws falling under the police power rights of state governments and local governments to exercise authority over privately owned real property. The earliest zoning laws originated with the Los Angeles zoning ordinances of 1908 and the New York City Zoning resolution of 1916. Starting in the early 1920s, the United States Commerce Department drafted model zoning and planning ordinances in the 1920s to facilitate states in drafting enabling laws. Also in the early 1920s, a lawsuit challenged a local zoning ordinance in a suburb of Cleveland, which was eventually reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.

Design standards, reference standards and performance standards are familiar throughout business and industry, virtually for anything that is definable. Sustainable design, taken as reducing our impact on the earth and making things better at the same time, is in the process of becoming defined. There are also lots of well organized specific methodologies that are used by different communities of people for different purposes.

Architectural engineering application of engineering principles and technology to building design and construction

Architectural engineering, also known as building engineering or architecture engineering, is a discipline that deals with the technological aspects and multi-disciplinary approach to planning, design, construction and operation of buildings, such as analysis and integrated design of environmental systems, structural systems, behavior and properties of building components and materials, and construction management.

The United States building codes related to energy are energy codes and standards that set minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction for new and renovated buildings that impact energy use and emissions for the life of the building. Buildings account for 39% of United States energy use, two-thirds of electricity, and one-eighth of water. With buildings being such a main source of energy usage in the United States, along with the surrounding issues associated with high energy usage it is imperative that buildings abide by codes to ensure efficiency. Using more efficient methods and materials upfront when constructing the buildings will help to cut down on energy usage. There are building energy codes for both commercial and residential buildings.

The California Green Building Standards Code is Part 11 of the California Building Standards Code and is the first statewide "green" building code in the US.

The California Building Standards Code is the building code for California, and Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR). It is maintained by the California Building Standards Commission which is granted the authority to oversee processes related to the California building codes by California Building Standards Law. The California building codes under Title 24 are established based on several criteria: standards adopted by states based on national model codes, national model codes adapted to meet California conditions, and standards passed by the California legislature that address concerns specific to California.

Designated as an American National Standard, the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) is a model code developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to govern the installation, inspection and maintenance of HVAC and refrigeration systems.

Designated as an American National Standard, the Uniform Solar, Hydronics and Geothermal Code (USHGC) is a model code developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to govern the installation and inspection of solar energy, hydronic heating/cooling systems, and geothermal energy systems as a means of promoting the public's health, safety and welfare.

BC Energy Step Code

The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial regulation that local governments in British Columbia, Canada, may use, if they wish, to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the base building code. It is an example of a "stretch code," or "reach code," in that it is an appendix to a mandatory minimum energy code that allows communities to voluntarily adopt a uniform approach to achieving more ambitious levels of energy efficiency in new construction.


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  2. 1 2 "Hammurabi's Code of Laws". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-05-24.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. "About ICC" . Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  4. Canada, Government of Canada. National Research Council. "Codes Canada - National Research Council Canada". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  5. Sutyagin House, Arkhangelsk, Russia: Standing tall., Wednesday 07 Mar 2007. (Includes photo)
  6. "Гангстер-хаус: Самый высокий деревянный дом в России объявлен вне закона" (Gangster house: Russia's tallest wooden house is now outlawed), Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 2008-06-26. (in Russian)
  7. NYC Construction Codes Archived July 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Deuteronomy 22:8
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  10. 'Book 1, Ch. 15: From the Fire to the death of Charles II', A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 230–55. URL: Date accessed: 07 March 2007.
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  12. Baltimore: The Building of an American City, Sherry H. Olson, Published 1997, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (Md.), ISBN   0-8018-5640-X, p. 248.
  13. New International Encyclopedia
  14. Puleo, Stephen (2004). Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 . Beacon Press. ISBN   0-8070-5021-0.
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  16. Wexler, Harry J., and Richard Peck. Housing and local government: a research guide for policy makers and planners. Lexington, Mass. u.a.: Lexington Books, 1974. 53. Print.
  17. "Residential Code Status | The Building Codes Assistance Project". Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  18. 1 2 3 Historical archives of the Building Codes Assistance Project.
  19. Jones, Ted; Norland, Douglas; Prindle, William (1998). "Opportunity Lost: Better Energy Codes for Affordable Housing and a Cleaner Environment". Alliance to Save Energy.