Construction professionals and homeowners: Partners in safety
Whether you are going through a minor remodeling job or major construction, the code official wants your project to be a success. Building safety professionals play a major role in keeping the public safe. They can also help avoid potential problems that could put you at risk and cost you time and money.
Before you begin any work that involves construction, visit your local building department. They will explain the process, which may include getting a building permit, plan review and inspection. This is also an opportunity to discuss incorporating mitigation measures to further protect your home from natural hazards. The process is designed to protect the home or building owner and the occupants.
Code officials ensure that all buildings, including homes, businesses and places of public assembly are built to required building safety codes, which address structural stability, fire safety, exits, sanitation, electricity, energy efficiency, flood protection and more. These building safety professionals are responsible for protecting public health, safety and welfare through effective code enforcement.
What are Building Codes?Building codes and regulations have protected the public for thousands of years. The earliest known code of law—the Code of Hammurabi, king of the Babylonian Empire, written circa 2200 B.C.—assessed severe penalties, including death, if a building was not constructed safely. Regulation of building construction in the United States dates back to the 1700s. In the late 1800s major cities began to adopt and enforce building codes in response to large fires in densely populated urban areas. The primary intent of early building codes was to reduce fire risk, but over time, their scope has broadened. Today, building codes are sets of regulations that address structural integrity, fire resistance, safe exits, lighting, ventilation, construction materials, and flood, wind, and earthquake protection. They specify the minimum requirements to safeguard the health, safety and general welfare of building occupants.
To learn more about building codes, check out the Code Council's Introduction to Building Codes.
The International Codes (I-Codes), developed by the International Code Council, are a family of fifteen coordinated, modern building safety codes used in all 50 U.S. states and in many other countries that protect against disasters like fires, flood and other weather-related events and structural collapse. Only 31 percent of hazard-prone jurisdictions adopt what FEMA deems a hazard-resistant building code.
Documents summarizing the hazard-resistant provisions of the I-Codes are available at FEMA’s Building Code Resources page. This page also includes other guidance documents on codes and standards.
Communities across the globe have differing levels of codes and standards coverage. Codes build confidence. Does your community have the latest codes? Find your community on our list of I-Codes adoptions, or check with your code officials and legislators to see what the situation is in your area.
Public safety is not the only byproduct afforded by modern codes. Architects, engineers, contractors and others in the building community can take advantage of the latest technological advances incorporated in these codes to impart viable savings to the consumer.
The Codes Protect Your InvestmentThe biggest investment most people will ever make is when they buy a home. Homes represent security, a place where people will live, raise their families and share their lives with others. Whether you own or rent a home, following the building codes during construction or remodeling can help protect your health and safety as well as your investment.
The building codes include research from experts that help ensure every phase of the construction process adheres to the latest building science and technology standards. In addition to helping make your home safe, the building codes can also help make your home more energy efficient, and conserve water and resources.
If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by your community, the value of your investment could be reduced. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections or your insurance premiums may become impractical to manage. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied or make costly repairs.
A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met––as demonstrated by a code official’s carefully maintained records––has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit. Having the proper permits allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety and welfare.
By following code guidelines, the completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends or future owners. Plus, you’ll benefit from the best energy efficient construction techniques that will continue to pay you back during the life of your home.
Invest wisely in your home or remodeling project. It’s a smart investment to build and remodel your home to the latest codes.