Over the past few years our country has been impacted from coast to coast by a series of natural disasters: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires. These occurrences have resulted in severe loss of lives and devastating destruction of property. In the rebuild process, many Americans will face the construction regulatory process for the first time. My effort is to show the benefits and limitations that the regulated means afford to all of us for a safe environment in entering or residing in any building within the U.S.
The protective standards that govern all our new and renovation of all our building types is called the Model Building and Fire Codes. These codes are enacted in regularly scheduled conferences and are adopted as is or modified by each state. They are designed to serve and protect the public health, safety and general welfare through structural strength and environmental requirements. The major code bodies that influence our code regulations are the (IBC) International Building and Fire Codes and the (NFPA) National Fire Protection Association and their family of Building and Fire Codes. The goal of the codes is to keep costs affordable and still maintain acceptable risks. The trust for entering a safe, code compliant building is placed in our public safety officers, namely our Building Code Inspectors and our Deputy State Fire Marshals
The Model Code’s yearly conferences are the means to submit new proposed code regulations or modifications of existing regulations. These new issues are presented before committees and usually have a period of serious debates by opposing viewpoints. The consensus new regulations or modifications are then voted on and, if approved, are written into the new model codes published every three years. There is a means to address serious concerns as needed. It is called a Tentative Interim Agreement (T.I.A.). They are enacted as temporary and are then brought up at the next scheduled conference as proposals. Due to strong differences of opinion, costs and other objections, the final products are usually the lowest minimum standards.
The new codes are then adopted by most states with some or many modifications. A few cities, such as NYC, have their own codes. There are 15,000 permit-issuing local governments and 44,000 Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that can also modify certain regulations to suit a local need.
The codes spell out all phases of construction from land preparation, foundation, framing, floors, walls, roof, utilities, sanitation, and fire protection. When plans for a new building, addition or renovation are ready, they must be presented to the local Building Authority and the Fire Marshal for their review and approval. In some cases if they are rejected, there is a path for an application of a variance due to a determined hardship or other extenuating circumstances.
A Warwick resident, Robert Sweeney operates a construction trades consulting business.