What Are Building Codes?

What are building codes?


A building code is a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for a building or non-building structure. 

Building codes ensure that all buildings, including residential, commercial and industrial properties, meet certain structural integrity and safety levels. These codes protect the occupants of a building as well as those who live or work in the vicinity. 

Licensed builders, architects, engineers, and other professionals involved in construction projects are required to know these codes and adhere to them strictly.


What Are Some Types of Building Codes?

Some of the most common codes adopted by local and state jurisdictions throughout the United States include:

  • Fire codes
  • Electrical codes
  • Building codes
  • Existing building codes
  • Plumbing codes
  • Mechanical codes
  • Water supply systems and sanitation codes
  • Energy efficiency standards
  • Environmental codes
  • Fuel gas codes
  • Property maintenance codes

In addition, some jurisdictions will implement codes specific to situations their communities face. For example, 

  • High-wind residential construction codes may be adopted in locations subjected to regular hurricanes. 
  • Flood-resistant design standards may be required in floodplains. 


Who Writes Building Codes? 

The local government or agency having jurisdiction (AHJ) is responsible for adopting, defining and enforcing these rules. 

The AHJ can be located at different levels of government, including cities, counties, townships, boroughs, etc. Depending on the jurisdiction, officials may adopt or adhere to state-established building codes, those defined by the International Code Council (ICC), a mix of both, their own, or none of the above. 

The ICC releases updated versions of its codes and standards every few years. Jurisdictions can choose which version of the code (if any) to adopt and enforce. 

State-level governments can define minimum requirements for all jurisdictions located within the state. From there, the AHJ can adopt its own standards so long as they satisfy or exceed the state minimums. 


How Are Building Codes Enforced?

For starters, many construction projects—from tenant improvements to ground-up construction—are required to obtain permits. These permits serve as the jurisdiction’s sign-off that the proposed structure satisfies the established building codes. 

Building without a permit may result in heavy fines or mandates to tear down what’s been built until permits are issued. 

Jurisdictions also employ inspectors who visit active and recently completed construction projects to review and verify a structure’s compliance with relevant codes. If violations are uncovered, appropriate action will be required, which may include fines and other penalties. 


Where Can I Find My State’s Building Codes

As a national permit expeditor, Permit Place must also know and understand all jurisdiction building codes. To help manage this, we’ve built a database of building codes organized by state, which we then review and update regularly—most recently in January 2023. 

Click below to find the currently adopted building codes for a specific state: 

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