We Don’t Need Building Codes

Many of our clients have expressed frustration at the myriad requirements imposed by the building codes, and the confusing way in which the requirements are sometimes enforced. In reality, the building codes vary from one city to another, and from one county to another. The code that applies to a given project depends on the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and which codes they have adopted. AHJs are usually counties, town’s or cities. Most AHJs have adopted some version of the international building codes (IBC, IRC, IECC, IMC) but the versions vary widely. Some AHJs are still on the 2015 version of the code (or older), while others have adopted the 2021 version. As a result, many owners and builders are left feeling confused about what requirements apply to a project. A significant amount of fear and mistrust springs up when clarity seems absent.

The truth is, building departments and code officials perform a critical function in the building ecosystem, and play a pivotal role in enhancing public safety. This is because they are responsible for enforcing code compliance. The building codes contain many provisions that have been developed over the years in response to building failures or poor performance. Some of the provisions have been developed in response to loss of life. The egress requirements, for instance, increase the likelihood that building occupants are able to escape the building in the event of a fire or other catastrophe. Additional building code requirements apply to the building materials themselves, limiting flame spread and providing additional time for evacuation. So while the title of this post is obviously tongue-in-cheek, the sentiment is very real among some owners, builders, and others in the industry. What is needed is more open, transparent, and continuous communication among all stakeholders in a project (owner, architect, engineers, building officials) to ensure that the requirements are clearly understood and met, and that costly changes and blunders are avoided.

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