These codes, jointly known as the International Building Code (IBC), are widely used in the United States of America. The system that was in force since the 1900s was based on the building regulations developed by three regional model code groups.
These were the BOCAI or the Building Officials and Code Administrators International based in the East Coast and throughout the Midwest regions, the SBCCI or the Southern Building Code Congress International in the Southeast, and the International Conference of Building Officials or ICBO in the West Coast.
The regional codes were effectively applied and responsive to the regulatory demands made by the various local jurisdictions.
By the early 1990s, it was more than obvious that there was a specific need for a single and well co-ordinated model acceptable on a national level. The three model code groups then combined their individual efforts into establishing the International Code Council (ICC) in 1994.
The effort and aim was driven towards developing standards that would not be limited by regional restrictions. It took extensive research and three years of dedicated effort before the first edition of the International Building Code was published in 1997.
The IBC was developed on the basis of the three legacy codes that were previously developed by the organizations that constitute the ICC.
ICC has successfully completed the international code series by the turn of the century and now the development of the legacy codes has ceased. It is important to understand that the NFPA or the National Fire Protection Association, which is also a large contributor to the model code development project, is absent in the endeavor.
Initially, the NFPA was a part of the endeavor of the ICC to collectively develop the International Fire Code. However, the effort fell apart and subsequent efforts to reach any form of coordination have been unsuccessful.
The NFPA's attempt to establish an alternative building standard series has been opposed by the AIA or the American Institute of Architects and the NAHB or the National Association of Home Builders.
The most extensively covered building concern within the model code is that of effective fire prevention during the construction and design stage. The building code ideally deals with the exact location of the emergency exits in the design of a building, whereas the fire code requires the emergency fire exits to be unblocked.
The building code also elaborates on the blueprint details with regards to access for the disabled, and stability of the structure to deal with tremors and violent external forces. When any municipality adopts the IBC, it automatically also adopts the sections of the other referenced codes like the plumbing, mechanical, and electric codes.
The chapters include specifics on building heights and occupancy classifications, interior finishes, foundation and roof construction, fire protection systems, building materials, and incorporation of elevators and escalators within the structure.
Building codes are generally applied to new constructions, and alterations or additions to existing structures. Many a time, changes in the use of a building expose the entire structure to adopt the code.