Definition of "Building code"

Therese Antonelli real estate agent
Therese Antonelli, Real Estate Agent Moving The Mitten Real Estate Group

A Building code – also referred to as building control or building regulations – is a set of rules by which a construction project needs to abide.

Building codes are geocentric; that is, they are determined by their localization and can change from region to region. For instance: one neighborhood might be okay with skyscrapers, while another one might have a limit of two-stories.

But building codes go beyond the “size” of the property: they deal with the way the internal structure is set, the materials in which it was set, and even the style of its design. For example, one building code can only allow art deco buildings to be developed in an area, prohibiting all other architectonic styles in order to preserve the street/neighborhood style heritage. So, building codes are something engineers, architects, and, of course, homeowners should be on the lookout for, when dealing with a house – whether building from the ground up or doing home improvements to it.

The term “building code” is a broad one, in the sense that, while there are some governmental mandatory ones  - from the federal sphere to the municipal sphere – there are also building codes that are more of suggestions and guidelines, like the FEMA building code; a set of construction recommendations to better protect properties from seismic activities and hurricanes. Some states, especially the ones more affected by an act of God, adopt it and insert it on their own mandatory building codes, other states don’t.

To sum it up, building codes exist to make sure that the minimum required for a safe, healthy and well-constructed dwelling harmony within a bigger context is enforced. It is used by designers and architects as reference when drawing the blueprint, because depending on the area they’re located, they might have to send the building plans to a local building department to review it and approve it and issue a building permit, then used by building inspectors to see if the contractors followed through with the plans during construction/improvement.

Fun fact: Chicago, a city known for its architecture - a city in the forefront of skyscraper development - is the only city in America that uses a building code designed by themselves, the Municipal Code of Chicago.


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Comments for Building Code

Leslie Neilly Leslie Neilly said:

What happens when there is a violation in the building codes of a home?

May 17, 2021  20:49:53

Real Estate Agent

Hey Leslie! Thank you for reaching out to us with this situation. The first thing that you should know is that building code violations can be managed differently by the local authorities so make sure you check that if you are dealing with a situation like this. Secondly, there are cases when a building code violation can lead to fines or, worst-case scenario, an expensive tear-out, and rebuild of the entire project. In some instances, this is doable but the current owner will pay for everything.

Building code violations are best to be avoided because if any renovations are done to a home without the correct permits, you might find it difficult to sell as the buyer will find it hard to get a mortgage for the house. In most real estate transactions, an inspector can be used and if they are good at their job, they can pin-point those violations and shrink the asking price.

If the house you bought has building code violations it would be best to fix them.

If you are interested in buying a house with building code violations, talk to the seller, ask them to do the necessary repairs, or just walk away.

Building code violations aren't just a matter of permits, fines, and extra work to repair, they can be a safety hazard and best to be avoided if possible.

May 20, 2021  12:07:35

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