Every few years, the national and local building codes are changed based on the developing technologies, standards, and conditions present. There are many forms of building codes, including the International Code Council, state building codes, like the Florida Building Code, and specialty building codes, like the National Fire Protection Association. Each one produces a set of standards that engineers and builders must follow. These codes can cover a plethora of topics, such as building materials, energy use, fuel / gas standards, mechanical and plumbing designs, and test protocols. So why do the change and how does that effect engineering design?
A cynical answer to why building codes change would be that the organizations need to sell code books, and the only way to sell code books, is to update them periodically and require everyone get a new copy. And while there may be a grain of truth to that, there is a real benefit to updating the codes. New technology and advancing building materials mean that what was once true in 2017 no longer applies to 2020. Changing laws, such as green initiatives, change what we emphasize in design, and as such we must adapt and make more stringent or more adaptive codes. STRUCTURE Magazine put it this way, “Research, both academic and industrial, provides new options for structural systems. And natural disasters provide lessons regarding the performance of structural systems, thus presenting opportunities for improvement.” (May, 2013)
The building codes are adapted to fit our ever-changing world, and that is a good thing. Building codes protect engineers. The code is the backbone of design. Engineers make sure that every connection, beam and column is designed to meet the strict standards set by the code. All the various code councils, be it internationally or locally, are vetted and researched to guarantee the best results. These results focus on important safety factors, cost and value design techniques, weather conditions, and more. Without a current code to rely on, engineers may be designing for a wind speed that is no longer accurate in their area, or designing based on material types that are no longer the same specifications and strengths.
While it may seem like a hassle and a cost to update a building code every three to six years, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The real-time accuracies, analysis and protections provided by keeping our standards current guarantees that engineers and designer can provide the best service.
One last important aspect to consider when it comes to changing building design standards is climate change. As weather patterns change, the importance of designing to meet a different climate are important. Engineers must consider design methods that will last far into the future and must accommodate unknown future changes. As such, wind design requirement, like those outlined by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are updated periodically to ensure that what we build today will last into tomorrow.
With all these changes, it can be hard to keep up. But no worries! With every new code that is released, an analysis of changes is also published, so design professionals can quickly look up what has changed and what they will need to implement from then on. This is why hiring a licensed professional who specializes in your design project is so important. They will know exactly what the standard is and how it applies to your project. You can rest assured that professionals like ORB Engineering are following the code.
More to come soon.