Photo by: Dan Thornton
By setting minimum standards for design and construction, building codes protect public safety while establishing uniformity in construction methods and materials. Regulations governing building have existed in the United States since its inception, but they gained new importance with the growth of cities—and the insurance industry—in the early 20th century. (For a detailed look at how building codes evolved, see read "Code Shock
" from FHB
#232 December 2012/January 2013.)
Since the 1990s, developing and revising building codes has been the work of the International Code Council, a nonprofit organization whose membership of 50,000 includes architects, engineers, builders, elected officials, manufacturers, and others who are connected to the construction industry.
Codes developed by the ICC—dubbed “I-Codes”—are model codes, meaning they have no legal standing until they are adopted as law by a governing body such as a state legislature, county board, or city council. Today, the ICC promulgates 15 different model codes, including the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC), and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The codes are interrelated, cite common standards, and are updated every three years following a specific process. Each cycle, the ICC receives about 2000 suggested code changes. Roughly 900 will end up as part of the new code.