Terry McMillen, Sr.
Why Building Codes Matter
April 10, 2023
Building codes are some of the most important components for the building industry. Yet, they are also some of the most misunderstood components. People often feel obtaining permits is restrictive, increases cost, and delays construction. These fears are often the result of misinformation. In this article, we'll discuss why building codes matter.
The Purpose of Building Codes
Building codes are a set of regulations that builders and architects must follow when constructing or renovating a building. The codes include safety, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) structural stability, and energy efficiency requirements. Building codes are designed to protect the public from unsafe buildings and to ensure that all new construction meets a certain minimum standard for safety.
In the past, occupants of buildings and consumers were often at risk from substandard construction. In response, Pennsylvania passed the “Pennsylvania Construction Code Act.” The Act provides “for the protection of life, health, property and the environment and for the safety and welfare of the consumer, general public and the owners and occupants of buildings and structures.”
To implement the Act, Pennsylvania adopted the model code of the Building Officials and Code Administers International, Inc. (BOCA) construction code. Adoption of this code was projected to guarantee “a uniform, modern construction code which will ensure safety, health and sanitary construction.”
The intent and purpose of the Act among other things is to:
Provide standards for the protection of life, health, property, and environment and for the safety and welfare of the consumer, public, and the owners and occupants of buildings and structures.
Encourage standardization and economy in construction to help keep costs down.
Permit to the fullest extent feasible the use of state-of-the-art technical methods, devices, and improvements.
Assure that officials charged with the administration and enforcement of the technical provisions of the act are adequately trained and supervised.
Start a process leading to the design, construction, and alteration of buildings under a uniform standard.
Pennsylvania’s statewide building code is generally known as the Uniform Construction Code (UCC). Anyone who plans to build or renovate a building should become familiar with the building codes.
McMillen Engineering, Inc. serves as a Certified Third Party Agency with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to provide Uniform Construction Code (UCC) services for opt-in and opt-out municipalities in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania. This certification allows us to perform plan reviews, complete necessary inspections, and issue building permits.
The Benefits of Building Codes to Property Owners
Building codes are the minimum design and construction requirements needed to ensure safe and resilient structures. These codes help reduce casualties, costs, and damage by necessitating that stronger buildings are constructed and maintained. There are several reasons that building codes should matter to you.
Building codes protect you from a wide range of hazards- whether by implementing safe wiring, fire prevention, or stronger structural integrity.
Building codes work. Various studies have shown that, over a 20-year period, cities and counties with modern building codes have avoided at least $132 billion in losses. This is based on a comparison of jurisdictions without modern building codes.
Building codes are always improving. You can trust that a building made to the latest codes is keeping up with the most recent findings and advances in technology. Model building codes help protect property owners from catastrophic failures. These codes are updated periodically and incorporate new information including results from post-disaster research.
Building codes level the playing field by setting common, minimum design and construction requirements across communities. These standards result in improved construction quality, consistent permitting, and strong code enforcement.
Building codes help your community. Implementing building codes can save a community money in reduced insurance premiums and give lending institutions confidence in issuing mortgage loans.
Because building codes are essential to creating resilient communities that protect health, safety, and economic well-being, they should be consistently enforced by well-trained professionals. Up-to-date building codes and consistent enforcement promote confidence by ensuring use of the best and latest technology and safety technology. Weak building codes or lax enforcement create a burden on homeowners and communities because giving unequal requirements to some produces animosity and discontent.
Building codes may introduce a modest increased cost at the time of construction; however, the cost is offset by savings delivered throughout the lifetime of homeownership. Savings may include enhanced durability, energy efficiency, life safety and more. According to a study by the National Institute of Building Sciences, buildings designed to meet the 2018 model building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC) result in a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested.
How To Learn More
Your voice makes a difference. Greater public awareness, understanding of building codes, and community efforts can make a big difference in protecting your community. To see what codes your community has adopted to protect you, you can visit sites like www.InspectToProtect.org.
You can also learn more about how building codes can save money on homeowners insurance and other topics, by visiting the Inspect To Protect Frequently Asked Questions page.
Once you know this information, you can reach out to your community’s decision makers to implement changes in your area that will help make your community safer and stronger. Learn more about how McMillen Engineering can assist with building inspections or the issuance of building permits.
Professionals seeking information about the Uniform Construction Code, can visit the PA Department of Labor and Industry website.
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