Most of us are familiar with the terms codes and standards, and if you work in the field of construction, facilities management, engineering, or fire protection like us, you will probably encounter both terms on a daily basis. But, what exactly is the difference? Is one or both legally enforceable? What even is a model code? Is it “better looking” than a code?
- Model codes serves as a generally accepted guideline for design, fabrication, construction & installation.
- The model codes in the United States are currently developed by two organizations: the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
- The intent of a model code is to have an industry-wide standard that can be adopted and customized by local jurisdictions, thereby saving the jurisdiction the time and expense of developing and maintaining their own code.
- Model codes are not enforceable, until adopted by a jurisdiction. An example of a Model Code is the International Building Code, developed by ICC.
- The IBC has been adopted by most jurisdictions in the US, as well as many foreign countries.
- A code is a model code that has been enacted into law by a local, regional, or national authority having jurisdiction so that the engineer or contractor is legally obligated to comply with the code.
- A code tells you WHAT should be done, but not HOW it should be done
- Codes often include references to standards, which means the standards are incorporated by reference and therefore are part of the code and legally enforceable.
- Examples: NFPA 1 – Fire Code, NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code
- A standard is a set of technical definitions, specifications and guidelines
- A standard specifies what subject matter experts consider to be the minimum requirements and instructions for manufacturers and users of equipment
- A standard clarifies HOW something should be done
- A standard is not a law
- Examples: NFPA 10 – Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 17 – Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems, NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives
FIRE CODE VS BUILDING CODE
The terms building codes and fire codes have been used synonymously over the years, but fire codes were originally developed to regulate the hazardous material or processes that may be present in an occupancy, including combustible construction.
Fire codes have continued to develop into comprehensive documents which are now intertwined within the building codes.
Current fire codes regulate the built environment, which includes maintenance of both active and passive fire protection systems, maintenance of egress and exits and much more.