What Building Code Officials Will Not Tell You

construction siteYour design professionals (architects, engineers, interior designers (in certain states) refer frequently to building codes such as the International Building Code in their preparation of project drawings. These drawings are submitted to local code officials for their review. These officials, or their third party reviewers, will note any “non-conformities” based on their interpretation of the prevailing codes, the drawings will be revised accordingly, and a building permit will be issued.

Sounds like a simple process, but it is not!
Your design professionals may reasonably interpret the code differently than the code officials. Resolution of these differences unfortunately takes time. The interaction of code officials, designers, and building owners and developers is a complex and imperfect process. 

Here are a few secrets that the code officials will not tell you:

What if the code official missed something on the plans. Can he make you change it in the field?Yes

The code requires that the design professional be responsible for code compliance, not the code official. If something is missed and found later in the project, it must be corrected. There is no waiver for missing a detail in the plan review or inspection process.

What if the code inspector overlooks something in the field that later results in a code problem. Is he liable?No

Neither the code officials nor the municipality are liable. The courts have ruled that building departments have “no duty” to ensure that project do not have construction errors (Bosch and Rivers v. City of Hoboken, NJ).

The responsibility is on the permit holder.

Is the code official responsible for guidance in the design process?No

The code does not refer to the code official as a possible assistant in helping the design process.

The design professionals are responsible for design, while the code officials are responsible for compliance review.

Is the code official required to tell designers if the project is over designed or something is not required?No

It is the designer’s job to determine the minimum code requirements. Certain esthetic design solutions or construction types may be desired on a project which go beyond the minimum design criteria. Code officials focus on the code, not design.

Can the building inspector be prohibited from coming onto the building site?
One of the conditions of the building permit is that the inspector has the right to make field inspections at reasonable times.

Article written by and courtesy of Garry Brinton, CFM. Mr. Brinton is Principal of FP+A, Inc. located in Harrisburg, PA. (717) 221-9700 gbrinton@facplan.com

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