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Two Codes !!

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For the past thirty years, I have longed for the day when there would be
only one model building code in the United States.  Although far from
perfect, I thought that IBC-2000 was going to be that code.  Furthermore,
since IBC-2000 has now been formally adopted as the building code for
Richardson, Texas and since various other cities have announced their
intention of doing likewise, I thought that my dream was indeed coming true.
While I have been vaguely aware for the past few months that NFPA (National
Fire Protection Association) has threatened to publish an alternative
building code, it never occurred to me that the threat was real.  Boy, was I
wrong!  I might as well have dreamed of world peace!  Not only is NFPA
developing a building code, but it now appears likely that the NFPA building
code will become the predominant building code. 

All of this was explained quite clearly by Emile Troup at the recent NCSEA
(National Council of Structural Engineers Associations) Conference in San
Antonio, Texas.  For reasons unrelated to technical competence and public
safety, NFPA withdrew from the ICC (International Code Council) while
IBC-2000 development was in progress and announced its intention to publish
an independent series of codes, including the NFPA-5000 Building Code.
Their work is well underway, and the first draft is already available for
download at (three PDF files totaling 3.4 MB).
You can also read all about the NFPA code development process and schedule
at that website.  The NFPA-5000 Building Code is scheduled to be available
for purchase in September, 2002.

Then what happens?  Very simply, there will be a mad scramble to seize
territory and it is likely that NFPA will "win" the majority of states and
municipalities.  Why?  First, it appears that NFPA has more resources (i.e.,
money) than the three constituents of ICC, even when their resources are
combined.  Second, and more importantly, NFPA appears to generally have more
influence on a local level.  Each city council will ultimately be asked to
choose between IBC-2000 and NFPA-5000.  Their building official will
strongly support the former, but their fire chief will just as strongly
support the latter.  Which individual has more clout?  In most cities, it's
the guy with the big staff, the multiple facilities, the expensive vehicles,
and the cute hats and sirens.

NCSEA has been, and continues to be, heavily involved in the development of
IBC-2000.  Since May, 2000, NCSEA has been involved in a similar capacity in
the development of NFPA-5000.  This is not an endorsement of two building
codes, far from it.  Rather, it is an effort to ensure that if there must be
two competing codes, that these codes be as similar as possible with respect
to structural engineering matters.  In other words, it is the goal of NCSEA
that NFPA-5000 be as much like IBC-2000 as possible, and that it adopt (by
reference) the same widely recognized structural standards and
specifications.  Please urge your SEA to actively support this effort!

Now then, I hope that I haven't just ruined your day!


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE
Vice President
Halff Associates, Inc.
8616 Northwest Plaza Drive
Dallas, Texas  75225
Phone:  (214) 346-6280
Fax:  (214) 739-0095
Email:  scaldwell(--nospam--at) 


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