Building codes can feel like the bane of a contractor's existence. They require plan submissions, meetings with building officials at local building and planning department(s), not to mention the string of inspections that occur throughout the construction process. Your local building inspector will become a regular feature at your construction site, beginning when you break ground and pour your foundation until your building is "finaled" and the last permit card is signed off.
So, what are all these building codes about, anyway?
Building Codes Are Integral to Public Health & Safety and Environmental Protection
These codes have become so integral to the building process that career contractors don't think twice about them, and may even consider them an unnecessary or cumbersome hoop they have to jump through. Ultimately, however, building codes are the key to keeping the occupants in the buildings in our communities as safe as possible.
What Are Building Codes?
Building codes are a series of regulations, co-created by politicians and building professionals, that are designed to govern the design, construction, repair or alteration and general maintenance of buildings. These codes apply to virtually every type of structure, from garages and houses to schools, churches, agricultural and commercial buildings. For this reason, we always recommend checking in with your local building department before commencing the construction of any building on your property to make sure you adhere to local building regulations. Failure to do so can result in serious penalties, fines and even the demolition of your building if it doesn't meet the current building code requirements.
Building codes are handed down at the international, federal, state and local levels. Typically, municipalities adopt the overarching building codes set forth by the International Building Code (IBC). This prevents them from having to "reinvent the wheel" and provides a solid foundation. These codes are in constant evolution in response to building innovation, technological advancements and/or real-life scenarios in which devastation could have been prevented with a change in the building code.
An example of revised building codes are Seismic Building Codes, which are created to provide the minimum qualifications a building must meet in order to withstand a certain level of seismic activity.
Can Building Codes Be Adapted or Changed?
Yes, and they are all the time. In addition to the evolution of building codes mentioned above, individual states and local municipalities can write their own building codes. An example of this would be the state of California, where seismic building codes are stricter than in other areas of the nation due to the higher seismic risks in that state. Building codes can also be adapted to accommodate a particular state or city's commitment to environmental protection.
These building codes are "adopted" by a local governing agency and can be amended and changed accordingly. A proactive community may have building codes that meet or exceed the current recommendations set forth by the IBC or FEMA, while others may lag a bit behind.
How Are Building Codes Enforced?
Typically, building codes are enforced at the local level. Ideally, a new construction project will be required to submit plans before ground is ever broken. These plans will be reviewed by the local building department where they will be approved or sent back with instructions for revision and resubmission. Your local building department will provide you with a list of permits that must be pulled for each stage of construction.
As each stage of construction is completed, you will schedule an appointment with a building inspector who will evaluate your work and either sign off that the phase is up to code or will ask for certain repairs or amendments to be made. Failure to observe these inspections and sign offs can result in heavy fines and may require you to demo parts or all of your building in order for it to be inspected and/or re-built to code.
Typical building code inspections take place after the following construction phases:
- Rough Framing
- Complete rough plumbing, electrical and HVAC
- Final inspection and certificate of occupancy
Of course, these inspections will vary according to the type of building you are constructing and the code requirements in your area.
As climate change becomes an increasing threat, building codes are becoming more strict in regards to the environmental impact a building has on the building site as well as the energy efficiency of the building. We predict building codes pertaining to environmental impact and weather-related safety will become more strict as super storms continue to increase and as air, water and soil quality become more of a public issue.
Interested in building a metal building that meet or exceed the building codes in your municipality? Contact Whirlwind and our representatives will be happy to get your building on the compliant code track.