Why Building Codes Are Important to Contractors

Newsletter 18-06

For any major construction project, there are seemingly endless requirements that the architects, the designers, and the construction crew must adhere to. But for contractors, following current building codes is of the utmost importance for a number of reasons.

Contractors, of course, already hold an incredibly important position in any build, as they oversee so many aspects of the project and ensure the safety of the crew as well as the budget and timeline of the project. Following the proper building codes ties into all of these existing responsibilities, as a failure to comply with local and federal codes can slow down a project and, ultimately, compromise the safety of everyone involved.

Whether working on a brand-new build or simply making upgrades during the renovation process, it’s crucial that contractors stay up to date with proper building codes. Read on to learn why building codes matter, and how they can impact a contractor’s work.

A Review: What Are Building Codes?

Local authorities require contractors to obtain permits before starting construction. Building codes are used to assess whether a project meets safety and quality standards and that buildings and structures (commercial buildings and private structures like homes) are safe for occupants and the general public. Compliance with codes is a prerequisite for obtaining these permits.

Building codes apply to everything like foundations, walls, and roofs, to mechanical and electrical facets of a building, to occupancy limitations. There are even building codes that relate to specific natural disasters like fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Depending on the size of a build and its use and location, there can be dozens — if not hundreds — of building codes that a contractor will need to follow in order for a project to be successfully completed.

Building Codes Exist to Protect Inhabitants from Hazards

Building codes, developed over decades to protect the health and safety of the general public, have  proved to keep people safe. Take, for example, what occurred in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. While southwest Florida communities like Fort Myers were devastated, Punta Gorda, a town of about 20,000, was saved thanks to stringent code changes enacted in the wake of Hurricanes Andrew and Charley. After Hurricane Charley decimated Punta Gorda in 2004, the city rebuilt its homes and buildings with modernized codes which were improved again in 2007. Modern building codes include having stricter requirements around “structural load continuity,” which includes ensuring that a roof is well-connected to walls and the walls are well-connected to the structure’s foundation, impact-resistant windows, and hurricane shutters.

Building Code Noncompliance Can Be Costly

Contractors are legally obligated to follow building codes in their construction projects. Non-compliance can result in legal penalties, fines, project shutdowns, and even litigation if issues arise from code violations.

In addition, if building codes are not followed, a project’s overall timeline can be impacted. Not only will a contractor need to re-do aspects of the construction, which takes time, but applying for additional permits and waiting for inspection can take weeks, if not months. Many aspects of a build rely on a carefully planned calendar, and failing to account for a delay due to building codes can throw the entire timeline into disarray.

How a Contractor Can Succeed

Building codes are a crucial part of the pre-build process. Reading through local, state, and federal code and creating a plan for implementation is a major aspect of the planning process.

Additionally, contractors should lean on their inspector as a resource early on. Meet with your inspector prior to the start of your build so that you can ask questions or air out any concerns. Most inspectors will take this initiative as a good sign, and be glad that you’re taking building codes seriously. A two-way relationship with your inspector will help the project succeed on time and on budget, and ensure the overall safety of the public.