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3 THE PRINCIPAL MODEL CODES The three principal model building codes used in the United States are the Uniform Building Code (published by ICBO), the Standard Building Code (formerly the Southern Building Code and published by SBCCI), and the National Building Code (formerly the Basic Building Code. Published by BOCA). The three model code organizations each publish a number ot different model code documents that cover particular types of buildings or building subsystems, but integrate these separate documents under the umbrella of their overall model codes. In addition to these three principal codes, there are model codes published by other organizations that are limited in scope. For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) promulgates guidelines and standards for building egress and smoke control in its Life Safety Code the National Association of Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors of America publishes its National Plumbing Code, and the American Concrete Institute its Building Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete.13 How the Model Codes Are Developed The principal model codes are developed through a quasi-consensus- building process with participation of many state and local building code administration officials and representatives of industry and professional associations. Each of the three model code organizations has subcom- mittees to address standards and procedures applicable to particular areas of technical expertise such as fire hazard, materials character- istics, or mechanical systems. 12In addition, CABO has published a model code for one- and two- family dwellings. 13Still other organizations, such as the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publish recommended specific standards that may be incorporated in code documents. ANSI coordinates the work of many other groups, in an effort to reduce overlap and duplication of effort. 15
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Proposed code changes and the justification for a proposed change may be initiated by any interested party. Proposals frequently come from industry seeking to introduce new materials or products, or from professionals or state or municipal officials whose recent experience suggests that changes are warranted to enhance safety or reduce costs. Proposals are screened by the appropriate subcommittee and are circulated for review and comment within the organization. Any interested party is invited to present arguments for or against the proposed change, but only members of the organization--restricted to building code officials--may vote on the change. Controversial proposals may be referred back to committee for additional review. Changes that are adopted are then included in the next publication of the organiza- tion's model code or code amendments. Such a process allows many points of view to be brought out in the standards-setting process, but is sometimes exceedingly slow and contentious. Participants cite some cases in which the process spanned as much as a decade, and others in which introduction of particular products that might yield benefits for building users has been slowed, sometimes by apparently narrow industry or trade union interests. On the whole however, state and local governments have found the model codes organizations a helpful way to share the substantial costs and effort associated with standards writing. Governments must still go through their own administrative and legislative procedures to review, modify, and adopt all or some portion of a model code as the official building code for a jurisdiction. Comparing the Model Codes Many of the differences among the three model codes are a matter of format and style, and derive from the history of the codes' development. Each of the three codes organizations began with strong connections to geographic regions of the nation, and their model codes reflect the tradition of building codes used in those regions. The Standard Building Code is thus most similar to earlier codes adopted by communities in the southeastern states, and has in turn been adopted as the building code most frequently in this same region. Similarly, the Uniform Building Code has its widest application in the western states, and the Basic Building Code is prevalent in the northeast and Midwest. Direct point-by-point comparison of the three model codes is difficult, and differences among the codes do indeed exist. The committee's experience is that these differences are frequently matters of form and phrasing rather than of technical requirements. However, there are significant technical differences: the Uniform Building Code includes greater emphasis on criteria for design for seismic conditions than do the other two models, and the Standard Building Code deals more extensively with strong winds. 16
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Moves Toward Uniformity The Council of American Building Officials (CABO) serves as an umbrella, representing the model code organizations interests in Washington, and as a forum for identifying and sometimes resolving differences among the model codes. BOCA, ICBO , and SBCC j ointly publish a model code for one- and two-family dwellings, under the CABO banner. BOCA, ICBO, SBCC and NFPA have formed the Board for Coordination of Model Codes (BCMC) to work toward coordinating the model codes. Two members of each organization comprise the BCMC, which meets approximately three times each year to discuss issues brought before the board by CABO. If the members of BCMC agree to a change to be made in one or more of the model codes, the change is proposed to the membership of the appropriate model code organization for adoption and inclusion in future editions of the model codes. The committee notes that there has been a convergence of state and local jurisdictions toward the uniform adoption of model codes. The committee thus sees reason to believe that differences among building codes may decrease in the future. This convergence is proceeding slowly, and the real differences among conditions in various regions may well preclude complete uniformity among local building codes. However, the committee endorses all efforts toward reducing the number and variety of local building regulations in the United States. 17
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