Building code

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A building code 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 the 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 authority.

Building codes are generally intended to be applied by architects and engineers, but are also used for various purposes by safety inspectors, real estate developers, contractors and subcontractors, manufacturers of building products and materials, insurance companies, facility managers, tenants, and other categories of users.

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, radio and television antennas.

Contents

[edit] Types of building codes

The practice of developing, approving, and enforcing building codes may vary widely from country to country.

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 being 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. For example, at some point in time all major cities in the United States had their own building codes as part of their municipal codes. Since having its own building code can be very expensive for a municipality, many have decided to adopt model codes instead. Only the cities of New York and Chicago continue to use the building codes they developed on their own; yet these codes also include multiple references to model codes, such as the National Electrical Code. Additionally, New York City is currently working to modify and apply the International Building Code for the city in a massive Model Code Program.

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.

Because of copyright law, one must obtain a copy of the local code and separately any model code it references.

[edit] Scope

Building codes generally include:

  • Structural safety: buildings should be strong enough to resist internally and externally applied forces without collapsing;
  • Fire safety: includes requirements to prevent the fire spread to/from neighbours, provide warning of occupants, and safe exiting of building, limitation on fire spread, and provisions for fire suppression/fire fighting;
  • Health requirements: adequate washrooms, adequate air circulation, and plumbing materials.

Some building codes sometimes include requirements for:

  • Noise mitigation to protect building occupants from noise pollution (see Noise regulation)
  • Accessibility: requirements to ensure that a building is accessible for persons in wheelchairs or having other disabilities.
  • Energy conservation, either by prescribing design requirements for the building envelope, heating & cooling equipment, lighting load, etc., or by requiring the building to meet specified energy performance standards (typically expressed as the maximum energy use per unit floor area). The Indian Energy Conservation Building Code provides a choice to building designers to use either of the two approaches.

Building codes generally do not include:

  • Aesthetics: Any regulation of the aesthetics of buildings are usually included in zoning by-laws;
  • Traffic convenience: Limitations on traffic flow are usually either in zoning or other municipal by-laws;
  • Building Use: the safe use of a building is generally in the Fire code; or
  • Required upgrades for existing building: unless the building is being renovated the building code usually does not apply.

Building codes include:

  • specifications on components;
  • allowable installation methodologies;
  • minimum and maximum room and exit sizes and location;
  • qualification of individuals or corporations doing the work.

Any high structure can be an obstacle for aircraft, and must therefore often be marked.

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 long 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.

[edit] History

Building codes have a long history. What is generally accepted as the first building code was in the Code of Hammurabi which specified:

  • 229. If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
  • 230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
  • 231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
  • 232. If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
  • 233. If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Building code

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