Codes and standards provide a common language and requirements for the design, construction, and operations of buildings. Such codes and standards have long served as the main tool of governments in setting agreed-upon norms in a jurisdiction. The concept of building codes goes as far back as Hammurabi (circa 1772 BCE) who established a performance-based code with strict penalties for noncompliance.
Codes were developed and adopted in Europe as it was settled and evolved over many decades. Those codes were imported to the new world and formed the basis for city codes as the U.S. was formed and grew. Significant fires in Chicago and Baltimore and a San Francisco earthquake in the late 19th and early 20th centuries spurred further development of codes for the design and construction of buildings, efforts fostered by the insurance industry. The primary focus at that time was to avoid loss of property and loss of life. Codes have increased in stringency since the early focus on life and property. They have had to address a myriad of new techniques and have expanded to include other societal values such as accessibility, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability, according to "Codes and Standards Development" by the National Council of Governments on Building Codes and Standards.
State and local jurisdictions may develop their own regulations or adopt building codes based on national model codes. State and local codes are typically based on national model codes published by the International Code Council (ICC) or the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
State and Local Codes
Most building construction in the United States is influenced by state and local building codes. These codes are intended as minimum design and construction requirements to assure life safety, property protection, general welfare of the public, and safety to firefighters and emergency responders.
Most states and local jurisdictions adopt a building code based on a national model. PCAs involvement is focused on the provisions contained in national model building codes and referenced standards. State and local jurisdictions typically reserve the right to amend the model codes to assure that the requirements for design and construction of buildings are appropriate for the climatic, geographical, geological, political, and economic conditions within their jurisdiction.
State and local jurisdictions typically reserve the right to amend the model codes to assure that the requirements for design and construction of buildings are appropriate for the climatic, geographical, geological, political, and economic conditions within their jurisdiction. PCA encourages legislation that enacts state-wide minimum codes based on national model building codes, allowing local jurisdictions to amend the technical requirements to make the code more stringent.