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Old 03-27-2009, 05:01 PM   #1
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Building Codes

Hi folks,

As I spent a few years inspecting and reviewing plans for an AHJ, maybe I can shed some light.

-Generally speaking, in the US there is no federal building code, so adoption of building codes is left to the states. A state may adopt a specific code or further leave adoption to the local governing authority ('Authority Having Jurisdiction' or AHJ). To find out what the code is where your project is located, ask the AHJ (city, county, township, parish, etc...). Don't forget to ask about any amendments.

-Typically, codes are minimum requirements. In the case of the 'I-Codes', this is spelled out in 'Chapter 1 - Administration' on the first page or two -see 'Purpose'.

-The codes are typically written reactively, meaning they are written after either failures, complaints, or lobbying with regards to existing codes. For instance, there were major rewrites after the Kobe and Northridge earthquakes. This means that the codes usually lag the 'state of the art' in a given trade or product.

-If something is not specifically listed in a code as being 'Approved', there is typically a process for getting 'Approval' from the AHJ. In the case of the 'I-Codes', this is spelled out in 'Chapter 1 - Administration' on the first page or two - see 'Alternate materials, methods and design...'. For example - when using products that have been tested to meet or exceed 'industry standards' (ANSI, NFPA, TCNA, ASTM...), getting 'Approval' for their use from the AHJ can be fairly simple with the appropriate documentation and presentation. It is up to the contractor to get the necessary 'Approval' before an alternate is used.

-In the codes, fire resistive, earthquake resistive, flood resistive, etc... construction typically relates to keeping the structure together long enough to allow the occupants to get out and to safety, not saving the structure. Usually this gets more restrictive with each code update, however, in the IRC, the 'self-closing' requirement of the door between a SFR and attached garage was eliminated a few years ago.

If you are a Pro, you've probably heard much of this before. If you are one who regularly deals with AHJ's, i believe you'd be well served by getting your hands on a code book and getting to know the first chapter that deals with the 'Administration' of the code. The 'Administration' Chapter tells you how, or even if, to apply the rest of the code.

Note: I've used singular 'code' above to refer to any codes that may be applicable. In WA, there are many, many, many......... Hope this helps.

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Old 03-27-2009, 05:13 PM   #2
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Thanks for chiming in.
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Old 03-27-2009, 05:13 PM   #3
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Thanks Dana and welcome.

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