It’s been asked a million times, “How did they settle on some of the dimensions in the building code?”
Well, it was explained to me like this:
During a Committee Action Hearing half of voters wanted the maximum stair height in a commercial building to be 8-inches, while the other half of the voters wanted the maximum to be 6-inches, and the two sides argued back-and-forth for hours. At one point the hearing officer looked at his watch and realized it was noon, so he spoke up and said, “Listen, half of you want an 8-inch maximum, the other half of you want a 6-inch maximum, let’s split the difference and agree on a 7-inch maximum.” He pounds his gavel on the table closing the hearing and says, “Now let’s go to lunch.”
Hopefully, you realize that is just a little building code humor and the actual process is more involved than a lunch break.
On April 2, 2018 the City of Beatrice updated its building codes by adopting the 2015 versions of the International Code Council’s (ICC) library of codes; in our case the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC) , International Plumbing Code (IPC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC), International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC).
The ICC develops the International Codes (I-Codes), a coordinated, modern set of building codes used in all 50 states, and many other countries. Changes to the I-Codes are made through a transparent and inclusive consensus-based process that complies with government standards. What is that process? I’m glad you asked!
The process is done in three stages, and takes approximately three years. Stage one is selecting Code Development Committees. There is a separate committee for each ICC code book and anyone can apply to serve on one of the committees that preside over the Committee Action Hearings (CAH).
The Codes and Standards Council makes recommendations based on the applications to the ICC Board, which then appoints members to the committees. Members of each committee fall into one of three interest groups: General - government agencies; User – building owners, designers, insurance companies, private inspection agencies, and academic; Producer – builders, contractors, manufactures, and distributors.
Code changes are then suggested/submitted (by anyone), ICC staff reviews each proposal and assigns them to the applicable Code Development Committee for them to review.
Stage two is completed at the CAH, where the code development committees “approved”, “approved with modifications” or “disapproved” each code change proposal. Any participant may challenge the committee’s actions. ICC members then vote on these challenges through an online process. Approved challenges result in an automatic public comment to be considered at the Public Comment Hearings (PCH).
Anyone can submit public comments online on the results of the CAH. The submissions are then sent to the PCH where eligible voters discuss and vote on code change proposals.
Stage three is done by an online governmental vote following the PCH, eligible voters vote online. The final vote count combines the in-person PCH and online votes. The Validation Committee reviews and the ICC Board confirms the final results. Now that the changes have been approved, an updated addition of the I-Codes is published (every three years).
While our office participates in this portion of the process, after the I-Codes are updated we review them on a local level to amend, add, or delete items that work better for our community.
This process consumes a lot of time for myself as the Chief Building Inspector; and a considerable amount of time for both the City Attorney and City Administrator. Because the changes in the I-Codes are not too significant on a three-year basis, we have decided that we will update our codes every six years.
That’s the basics of how building codes are developed to insure minimum standards for building safety. If at any time you would like to submit changes to the Code Development Committees you can do so by accessing the ICC website at iccsafe.org and/or contacting our office to discuss what changes you’d like to see made in the I-Codes. We can be contacted in the City Auditorium at 205 North 4th Street, (402) 228-5250, or firstname.lastname@example.org.