Navigating Code Issues

Successful navigation of applicable codes is critical in project management.  Familiarity with building codes, accessibility laws and the review process can make all the difference in achieving project success and help to avoid any risk of harming the client-architect relationship. At Charles Matsinger Associates, we stay current with code updates and use various methods to best apply code issues accordingly during the project planning phase. Senior Architect, Bruce Kleine, AIA, offers the following tips for successfully navigating the codes process:

1. Have a Methodology

For example, first consider the Building Type, the Occupancy Group and the Location. Research and record which codes and what editions are applicable.  Next, determine whom and how each jurisdiction enforces the code and become familiar with the approval process. Finally, if a client has a working relationship with a local jurisdiction, take advantage of this situation.  Establish a working relationship with code officials and make an effort to speak with them directly or arrange a meeting in their offices at the inception of the project.  This will serve to create a framework during the planning phase.

2.  Understand Code Applicability

Proper code application can be tricky.  Certain codes or ordinances refer to other codes or in some instances “supersede” other codes by being more restrictive. Therefore review of multiple codes in certain instances may be necessary. Thorough understanding of particular passages and familiarity with code narratives provides insight for the designer and may lead to an opportunity to exercise “exceptions” listed in the code that can save time and expense for a project.

It is extremely important, especially in renovation work, that the design professional recognize that certain decisions reached in applying particular advantageous passages of the code may have negative implications in other areas of a facility. Understanding prior approvals that a facility may have been granted also contributes to appropriate code application. Therefore the solution for a particular project always needs to be considered in terms of comprehensive code compliance.

3. Communication is Key

During the course of the project, it is important to communicate with the design team.  Project consultants and engineers must be made aware of special circumstances dictated by building conformance in order for them to successfully apply their unique knowledge of particular code issues to assure compliance within their discipline.

4. Exercise Common Sense

Codes are written to provide safety for buildings and for those that occupy them.  Through proper interpretation by the design team, creative application of code passages promotes the safety of the general public and their physical surroundings.  All too often, direct applications of code issues and accessibility laws are in fact detrimental, costly to the client, and without benefit to the general public.  The designer must keep in mind that strict adherence to code issues may not yield the intended result.

The project planning process is complex, laden with a myriad of details, each requiring special attention and consideration in accordance with code application. A well-informed project team, applying the proper code-related principles not only makes for a smoother process, but it ensures clients that their project is in good hands. When codes are being properly assessed, adhered to, applied and considered in regard to the entire facility, project success is assured.

For more information on this topic or how we can assist you with your Architecture and Planning needs, please contact Bruce Kleine, AIA at 215.925.6565 or