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Radon-Resistant New Construction (RRNC)

Building Codes - A Primer

For more information on radon codes for new homes in your area, contact your state building code association.

What are Building Codes?

A building code is a collection of laws, regulations, ordinances, or other statutory requirements adopted by a government legislative authority that is involved in assuring the adequacy of the physical structures and healthy conditions of buildings.

Building codes establish predictable, consistent minimum standards that are applied to the quality and durability of construction materials. According to the International Codes Council, "minimum requirements” means that the construction meets the criteria of being both "practical and adequate for protecting life, safety, and welfare of the public."

Building codes are adopted by a state or local government's legislative body, then enacted to regulate building construction within a particular jurisdiction (city, county, or entire state). The primary purpose of a building code is to regulate new or proposed construction. Building codes only apply to an existing building if the building undergoes reconstruction, rehabilitation, or alteration, or if the occupancy of the existing building changes to a new occupancy level as defined by the building code.

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Why Have Building Codes?

Codes provide safeguards and ensure uniformity in the construction industry. We all need protection from harm due to fire, structural collapse, and deterioration in our homes, offices, schools, manufacturing facilities, stores, or places of entertainment. Building codes embrace all aspects of building construction—structural items, fire prevention, and radon prevention, as well as the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems.

Inspection during construction is the only way to independently verify that the builder and building contractors have complied with the codes. Inspections are conducted in homes, offices, and factories to verify conformity to minimum standards, prior to the local government issuing an occupancy certificate. While codes provide the means to reduce risks to an acceptable level, no code can totally eliminate all potential hazards. Only through proper building design, sound construction practices, and effective code administration and verification programs, can owners ensure safe and hazard-free buildings for occupants.

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Which Codes Address Radon-Resistant Techniques for New Homes?

The most common residential codes that address radon-resistant building techniques are:

History of Building Codes in the United States

From the early 1900s, the system of building regulations in the United States was based on model building codes developed by three regional model code groups. For example, the codes developed by the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA) were used on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. The codes from the Southern Building Code Conference International (SBCCI) were used in the Southeast, and the codes published by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) covered the West Coast.

Although regional code development was effective and responsive to the regulatory needs of the local jurisdictions for many years, by the early 1990s it became obvious that the country needed a single coordinated set of national model building codes. The nation’s three model code groups decided to combine their efforts and in 1994 formed the International Code Council exiting EPA (ICC) to develop codes that would have no regional limitations.

After 3 years of extensive research and development, the first edition of the International Building Code was published in 1997. The code was patterned on the three codes (now known as “legacy codes”) previously developed by the organizations that now constitute ICC. By the year 2000, ICC had completed the international Codes series and ceased development of the legacy codes in favor of the national successor.

Legacy Codes:

  • BOCA National Building Code (BOCA/NBC) by the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA)
  • Uniform Building Code (UBC) by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO)
  • Standard Building Code (SBC) by the Southern Building Code Conference International (SBCCI)

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Competing Codes

Absent from the International Code Council is another large player in model code development, the National Fire Protection Association. exiting EPA Initially, NFPA joined ICC in a collective effort to develop the International Fire Code (IFC). Agreement could not be reached, however, on the document. After several attempts to find common ground with the ICC, NFPA withdrew from participating in the development of the International Codes and joined with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Western Fire Chiefs Association to create an alternative set of codes.

First published in 2002, the code set named the Comprehensive Consensus Codes, or C3, includes the NFPA 5000 exiting EPA building code as its centerpiece and the companion codes such as the National Electrical Code, exiting EPA NFPA 101 exiting EPA Life Safety Code, UPC, UMC, and NFPA 1. exiting EPAUnlike the International Building Code, NFPA 5000 conforms to ANSI exiting EPA-established policies and procedures for the development of voluntary consensus standards.

Efforts to develop a unified set of model codes did not succeed. NFPA, ICC, and ASTM International continue to promote the adoption of their respective documents.

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