Anyone involved in design or construction in the southeast United States during the twentieth century is probably familiar with the old Southern Building Code Congress International. This group of fire marshals, city officials and code enforcement managers was responsible for writing the building codes for the entire region--codes that are still available and used by some today.
Since 1994, the Southern Building Code Congress International, or SBCCI, has been incorporated into the International Code Council, ICC, for the purpose of developing a single set of coordinated national model building codes. Prior to that, building codes in the U.S. were written by three different regional groups, with the SBCCI governing the southeast, while the Building Officials Code Administrators International covered the East Coast and Midwest, and the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) published codes for the West Coast. After 3 years of research and development, the first edition of the ICC's International Building Code was published in 1997, based on and incorporating the work of the three predecessor organizations. Until 2000, the individual, so-called "legacy" codes were still published individually.
Nevertheless, the SBCCI continues to exist as a not-for-profit organization which continues to help develop and maintain the ICC model building codes, in which it is an active participant in the International Code Council. In addition, it continues to provide prints of its original codes, a publication called "Standard Building Code," for adoption and reference to local and state legislators and builders.
A building code is a set of standards for construction and maintenance of erected edifices. These technical standards include rules, conditions, guidelines and characteristics for products, processes and production methods designed to create safe, but economical structures. These codes establish standard definitions of terms, dimensions, materials, performance, designs, and operations, classify components, and delineate procedures. They also describe accepted testing methods of size and strength, and sampling procedures for these tests.
The standards themselves are further classified into several types, either by their purpose, intended user group, or the way they specify their requirements. Purpose-based standards often have broad-ranging effects: a standard for a particular metal will affect all users of that metal down the line of production, from cars to screws. The terms or processes they define will be used across several industries. User-based standards have a more proscribed affect, though in many cases, user-based standards are designed for large, international groups such as NATO or the federal government. Performance and design standards, falling in the last category, are the most specifically tailored to individual products.
Today, the ICC continues to build on the advantages of combining the expertise of the SBCCI and other code organizations to produce a single set of codes. As a result of the unification, manufacturers don't have to design to three different regional standards, and focus their resources elsewhere as they strive to remain competitive in a global market. Education and certification programs can also be uniform, and used internationally, with code enforcement officials, architects, engineers, designers and contractors working off the same code requirements throughout the United States. Instead of researching the best construction methods, energy can be put into increased efficiency and emergency mitigation. In many cases, adoption of the uniform ICC code by state and local groups, fostered in the southeast by the proximity of the SBCCI, also results in higher quality construction.