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Russell Thornburg | Shining Light on Building Codes-Part 2


Shining Light on Building Codes (Part 2) | The Evolution of Building Codes and Standards by Russell Thornburg

Building codes or sets of rules defining how buildings can be designed and constructed to a minimum level of safety. They are not a phenomenon of the modern world. Rather, they have been around for centuries. One of the earliest being the Code of Hammurabi, which is a set of laws enacted by the Babylon King Hammurabi. Hammurabi’s rules helped in governing the people of his fast-growing empire, which included most of ancient Mesopotamia. The rules covered a variety of topics, including inheritance, divorce, contracts, paternity, homicide, debt, agricultural practices and assault. The code also contained the first know set of building codes.

My name is Russell Thornburg, and I want to thank Pieresearch for allowing me to be here today.

Today we’re going to look at a subject. It’s an interesting subject. We’re going to use the title, look at the title, really close title says understanding. Well, it’s hard to understand something if we don’t even know where it comes from. So, we’re going to look at some components and then we’re going to look at some reality. Understanding Building Codes. Well, what does that mean?

So, the very first thing I need to talk to you about is one of the things I’m throwing out at you right now. Two thousand and twenty-one. There’s a family of books that are out there. The IBC, which is the commercial book we call it the granddaddy the is the big guy, sits upright at the very top. Then we look at the IRC and the IFC IRC residential code, fire code, plumbing code, chemical code. I’ll bring those back in a little bit later. But remember this, a city that’s talking about a building code has to adopt these books into their ordinances, or maybe it’s a county or maybe as a state. I don’t know whether we’re home rule, and I don’t know whether we’re state. But what I do know is those codes will be adopted. We will enforce that which is in those books.

Now, what’s in those books? One of the things that we have is what we call standard. Those standards will be popping up throughout these books that we read.

Now, those standards that we’re looking at is a group of guidelines, guidelines that tells us how. That’s something that I want to know. And not only what I want to know, how I know how it’s going to perform. Not only that, I want to know how it performs and its installation and its task. You see the pictures I’ve got here is NFPA 72. That’s how the smoke alarms work. That’s how the alarming system goes off. That is to tell me how and when and how it’s to perform what how loud to get out of the building.

When we look at NFPA 13, it’s telling us how the sprinklers go in. Now, remember, the NFPA 13 is the granddaddy, if you want to say it, it’s the one that we look at when we’re doing the biggest, biggest, biggest buildings there are. It’s also the one we use all the time and the smallest ones. And when we go to maybe a residence, we would use what we call an NFPA 13R for residents. So if you wanted to look this up, just put in NFPA 13. You’ll get it. It’ll come right up for you.

But again, they are enforcement that we use to enforce the code when we’re adopting these code ordinances.

Now, there’s another document that’s going to show up now when you go into the back end of the code book. Oh, my goodness. There’s a slew of reference standards that are back in the back. But each one of the codes that I’m about to show you all have these reference standards in the back.

So, what are the reference standards that I’m going to be using today since I just talked about the NFPA Is it a simple book that all of us in the residential world use all the time And we call it the Gypsum Association with short term G A, to be specific, G A 600. Again, it’s found in the back end of the books. I every book, every code book has a list of references. I’ll tell you a lot about where it’s focused in the code book, we want to look at that. That’s an additional set of books that we have to pick out when we’re doing our jobs as building code people.

Now, one of the things it’s also in the very, very back of the book is called Appendix. Now, appendix is a set of standards, set of guidelines. It’s called Guidelines until a city adopts that specific that very specific appendix. It’s not adopted. It can guide you, but we can enforce it until that city or county adopts it into their code.

Well, take, for example, one of those that I think is very important – sound transmission. When we live in apartments and we adopt appendix K, it has a way of keeping the sound down so that we can hear ourselves and not listen to everybody else. There are many things in Appendix K. And when you look at the appendix that I put in here, it’s the international building code I use, because that list is a lot shorter than the list of the residential code. So, each one in each book is going to be different. So, take a look at it.

The next thing I want you to look at is, is how am I going to use these appendix? Just remember, you just can use it as a guideline if they’re not been adopted with the code with that organization that’s working.

So let me take you back into this. These appendices have one use only just to guide us in what they’re hoping for one day in a code hearing. Is that appendix major manages to get into the code word, but a lot of them have been there from the beginning. Never moved in the code book. So, we can’t really plan on that.

Let me take you off to this. I want to show you the family of the codes. You watch how this family goes all the way around. OK, so we have the international building code. We have the energy code. We have the residential code. We have the mechanical code. We have the property maintenance code. We have the fuel gas code. We have electrical code. We have fire code. We have the zoning code. My goodness. Look at all the families that we have put together. The interesting part that you need to know, all of these codes dovetail themselves together and they come up and make the residents code. Now, one of the things that you’re going to want to do here is, is this. If you want to look into these books, go to the library, see if they have one. See if the department, the county or the city has put a book in the library. That’s one of the easiest ways to look.

If you want to get into purchasing some of these books go to

Watch Shining Light on Building Codes (Part 3) >

This video was made courtesy of Pieresearch, “The Standard of Excellence!” Manufacturer of high-quality alignment and centralizer products for the deep foundation and earth retention industries.

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