A building code (also building control or building regulations) is a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects such as buildings and nonbuilding structures. Buildings must conform to the code to obtain planning permission, usually from a local council. The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code becomes law of a particular jurisdiction when formally enacted by the appropriate governmental or private authority.
Building codes are generally intended to be applied by architects, engineers, interior designers, constructors and regulators but are also used for various purposes by safety inspectors, environmental scientists, real estate developers, subcontractors, manufacturers of building products and materials, insurance companies, facility managers, tenants, and others. Codes regulate the design and construction of structures where adopted into law.
Examples of building codes began in ancient times. In the USA the main codes are the International Commercial or Residential Code [ICC/IRC], electrical codes and plumbing, mechanical codes. Fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the I-Codes at the state or jurisdictional level. In Canada, national model codes are published by the National Research Council of Canada.
History of Building Codes and Standards
Building codes have a long history. The earliest known written building code is included in the Code of Hammurabi, which dates from circa 1772 BC.
The book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible stipulated that parapets must be constructed on all houses to prevent people from falling off.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666, which had been able to spread so rapidly through the densely built timber housing of the city, the Rebuilding of London Act was passed in the same year as the first significant building regulation. Drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale, the Act regulated the rebuilding of the city, required housing to have some fire resistance capacity and authorised the City of London Corporation to reopen and widen roads. The Laws of the Indies were passed in the 1680s by the Spanish Crown to regulate the urban planning for colonies throughout Spain's worldwide imperial possessions.
The first systematic national building standard was established with the London Building Act of 1844. Among the provisions, builders were required to give the district surveyor two days' notice before building, regulations regarding the thickness of walls, height of rooms, the materials used in repairs, the dividing of existing buildings and the placing and design of chimneys, fireplaces and drains were to be enforced and streets had to be built to minimum requirements.
The Metropolitan Buildings Office was formed to regulate the construction and use of buildings throughout London. Surveyors were empowered to enforce building regulations, which sought to improve the standard of houses and business premises, and to regulate activities that might threaten public health. In 1855 the assets, powers and responsibilities of the office passed to the Metropolitan Board of Works.
The City of Baltimore passed its first building code in 1859. The Great Baltimore Fire occurred in February, 1904. Subsequent changes were made that matched other cities. In 1904, a Handbook of the Baltimore City Building Laws was published. It served as the building code for four years. Very soon, a formal building code was drafted and eventually adopted in 1908.
In Paris, under the reconstruction of much of the city under the Second Empire (1852–70), great blocks of apartments were erected and the height of buildings was limited by law to five or six stories at most.
The structural failure of the tank that caused the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 prompted the Boston Building Department to require engineering and architectural calculations be filed and signed. U.S. cities and states soon began requiring sign-off by registered professional engineers for the plans of major buildings.