Beyond the Build


Decoding the Codes

code“Is that up to code?” I hear this often.

Construction codes are complex and at times hard to navigate. Regulations can vary by trade and locality. To complicate things, there is no uniform building code in the United States, nor is there a common language for what is written. 

Industry groups publish standards that are then adopted regionally. A few we frequently visit: 

The International Building Code (IBC) is maintained by the International Code Council in Washington DC. Their model codes and standards are used in the design, building and compliance throughout much of the United States.

International Plumbing Code (IPC) sets minimum requirements for plumbing systems in their design and function. They also set out rules for the acceptance of new plumbing-related technologies. Published by the International Code Council.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards are designed to prevent fires and or contain them. This organization alone publishes more than 300 consensus codes and standards.

National Electric Code (NEC) is a standard for the safe installation of electrical systems published by the NFPA. You’ll also hear it referred to as “the NFPA 70.”

ASHRAE (Formerly the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) is a building technology society focusing on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability. Their standards are published annually.

ASTM (Formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) is the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval in our industry. Their technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services lend confidence to the end user.

These and a few more shape our projects. There is the “code of the local building official” and “the fire marshal” which at times seems to be the most important of them all.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.