A Necessary Evil

Our Love / Hate Relationship With Construction Codes

Complaints and criticism about building codes have been around for a long time and will never go away. Many ask why we even have them, state that they are useless, increase construction costs unnecessarily and in some cases we are told that this is just a money maker to take advantage of tax payers. Do any of these sound familiar? Do you share any of these opinions? I know I have heard quite of few of these; OK, I have heard all of them. So like it or not, the codes exist for a reason and are here to stay.

First of all, the reason the codes exist is due to a past history of death, destruction and injury. We have learned a lot of lessons over the past few centuries the hard way. Buildings collapsed for reasons ranging from poor construction to earthquakes and wind. Fires and other fatal causes such as carbon monoxide, sewer gas and similar other issues have claimed the lives of way too many people. You see, we already tried construction without codes and it didn't work. On a daily basis contractors fail inspections, and that is why the inspector is needed. Inspectors are needed to ensure compliance with minimum standards. Quite simple actually.

How many times have you found a job site with no permit and when you investigated, you found lot of violations? I don't even know how many but "too many" is a good answer. Jobs that have permits pulled rarely go from beginning to end without ever failing at least one inspection. Sure it happens but it is rare. If it is common for most of your jobs to pass inspections then I will say that you are probably not doing your job. Yes, I said that and I meant that. We have a legal obligation to protect the public and ensure that the minimum standards are adhered to. Now, with that said, no one like a "rogue" inspector who is out to fail everything. The bigger issue is the inspector who is either over their head, too busy to do the job right or just doesn't care.

Inspectors can be overtasked, overworked, overwhelmed or undereducated and be an underperformer. All of which are a recipe for disaster. No matter the case, it is our job to operate to the best of our ability and within the scope of our job and training. It is our job as inspectors, plan reviewers, architects, engineers, contractors and developers to make an attempt to work together in harmony for the common good. The codes are laws and laws, whether you agree with them or not cannot be broken. Inspectors have no legal authority to waive code requirements and those being inspected should not be asking for special treatment. The codes are essentially "written in blood" and it is our job to help minimize that from happening again.

Sincerely,

Jeff

The Building Code Forum

2 Responses

  1. Well said, As an inspector 5+ years and a Resd. builder for over 25 years, there is always something to find in the way of a code "violation". As an inspector,I use two quotes to explain my job Philosophy. 1) my job is to apply the code not enforce it and 2) every inspection fails until I find a reason to pass it. Some contractors take pride in their work and it shows. Others just do what they did for the last inspector and expect it to pass too. Often Rarely do you see a contractor that is trying to learn the reason behind "THE CODE", and It is a refreshing encounter.

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