Generally speaking, building codes are developed by well intentioned people who are actively involved in the construction industry. Their original purpose, as stated in the CABO One and Two Family Dwelling Code, is “to provide minimum standards for the protection of life, limb, property, environment and for the safety and welfare of the consumer, general public and the owners and occupants of residential buildings regulated by this code.” However, it is important to keep in mind that building codes are adopted, modified and enforced by local politicians and government officials. Something else to remember about building codes is the fact that they “are not intended to limit the appropriate use of materials, appliances, equipment or methods of design or construction not specifically prescribed by the code, provided the building official determines that the proposed alternate materials, appliances, equipment or methods of design or construction are at least equivalent of that prescribed in this code…” In other words, you might be able to use alternate construction methods or materials, provided you can prove – to the satisfaction of the building official — that your way is as good or better than what the code book prescribes.
Building codes are constantly changing and they can vary by state, county, city, town, and/or borough. While some states, like California, Florida, Michigan, New York and a few others, have their own set of building codes (typically based upon some version of the ICC with changes to accommodate local laws and regulations), most states have adopted the International Code Council series, which are much more national than international at the present time — but it sounds impressive and it is good to be optimistic about the future. The ICC codes are typically updated with a new printing every 3 years. However, you should be aware that the wheels of government tend to turn more slowly and less… (I’ll stop there;-) than private business. So, the most current printing of any set of building codes may not be the specific set of codes that will apply to any given construction project.
Always Check with Your Local Building Code Department
In order to learn which codes are being used and how they will affect you and your construction project, contact your local building inspection department, office of planning and zoning, and/or department of permits. You may want to start by calling the most local government body that has jurisdiction over the property where you will be building. They should be able to provide you with specific information about which building codes are currently being used as guidelines in your area. You should also ask for any local changes or modifications that have been adopted by that local jurisdiction. Local boards, councils, and assemblies frequently exclude portions of “standard” codes and/or adopt requirements that are not specifically prescribed in code books. Depending upon other specifics about your project — including but not limited to whether or not you have a well, septic system, wetlands, sensitive environmental conditions, or public use areas — you may also be subject to state and/or federal requirements.
State Government Pages
Building codes, business licenses, building permits, contractors licenses, and home improvement licenses are often issued and administered by state agencies. Most state government Web sites follow a standard Internet address format. To find online information in your state, use the following URL (uniform resource locator), substituting the 2 letter abbreviation for the state where you want to find information:
https://www.state.ca.us or https://www.maryland.gov
County Government Pages – Building codes, business licenses, building permits, contractors licenses, and home improvement licenses are issued and administered by county agencies, as well. County Web sites often use the following URL format, substituting the 2 letter abbreviation for the county and state where you want to find information:
https://www.co.ba.md.us or https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov
International Code Council
The ICC was founded in 1994 by BOCA, ICBO, and SBCCI in order to develop a single national building code in the United States. The Council of American Building Officials (CABO), the previous umbrella organization for the three nationally recognized model code organizations in the United States was incorporated into the ICC in November of 1997. They are comprised of officials who are responsible for the enforcement of building codes in their state and local jurisdictions.
BOCA – Building Officials & Code Administrators International, Inc. has been consolidated into the International Code Council (ICC).
ICBO – the International Conference of Building Officials has been consolidated into the International Code Council (ICC).
SBCCI – the Southern Building Code Congress International has been consolidated into the International Code Council (ICC).
Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007)
Energy Policy Act of 2005
Executive Order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade”
International Green Construction Code (IgCC), International Code Council
ASTM E2432 Standard Guide for the General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Building
ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of Green Buildings, except Low-Rise Residential Buildings