How to Get it Started: The Code Overview

This page describes the overview of the process that Architects use to insure that your building fits with the California 2013 Building Code

Much of the time spent on making architectural drawings is not the time spent on the design itself. Rather, a majority of the time is spent on insuring that the various aspects of the drawings conform to the building codes. This process is the reason why most people hire architects… in that the architect is tasked with the responsibility of making the designed building conform to the building code. Much of the time, architects may see themselves as insuring that the building plans get approved to the lowest common denominator in terms of what the building and safety department will allow. This lowest common denominator is the building code. It is possible to excel the code, but for most, the question would be why? Why would a person want to exceed the provisions of the code?

The best answer is the code has a limited degree of usefulness and the focus is merely protecting life, health and safety of the public. To excel the code would require a higher understanding of the purpose of the building. Note, this higher understanding takes the code as a minimal framework for construction; not the maximal framework for existence. You would excel the code if you had a specific reason for going above and beyond the requirements of the code; namely, your requirements help enhance the life, health and safety of individuals over that of the minimal standards of the building code.

I have included here an overview of the building code process as delineated in the 2013 California Building Code, including pages vii through xi. Here are the Non-Structural Provisions:

  1. Classify the building for occupancy and construction type
  2. Determine if the building is fully sprinklered
  3. Locate the building on the site
  4. Verify the building’s construction type by determining the allowable building size
  5. Identify extent of any special detailed occupancy requirements
  6. Identify and evaluate fire and smoke protective elements
  7. Identify additional fire protection systems that may be required
  8. identify and evaluate materials utilized as interior floor, wall and ceiling finishes
  9. Evaluate means of egress system based on anticipated occupant loads
  10. Verify compliance with means of egress provisions
  11. Determine areas of building and site required to be accessible
  12. Determine extent of other miscellaneous provisions

Next, there are the Structural Provisions:

  1. Determine the Design Loads
  2. Determine the Structural Materials
  3. Complete Structural Analysis, Design and Detailing

Under the main topic of Structural Provisions, there is a general category called – General Requirements, which include:

  1. Determining the occupancy category of the building
  2. Determine the floor and roof live loads
  3. Determine the snow load
  4. Determine the wind speed and wind exposure category
  5. Determine earthquake design requirements
  6. Take into consideration any relevant geotechnical information
  7. Describe and design for any special loads
  8. Determine the load combinations
  9. Design the details for wind and seismic conditions
  10. Address serviceability issues
  11. Design the foundation
  12. Determine the extent of excavation, grading and fill
  13. Develop the floor design data
  14. Determine if there are any special inspection needs
  15. Determine special inspection needs for wind and seismic resistance
  16. Complete any needed structural testing for seismic resistance
  17. Complete any structural observations as necessary
  18. Coordinate with the Contractor so that he fulfills his responsibilities
  19. Insure that phased approvals are completed as necessary
  20. If construction documents are to be amended, amend them
  21. If there are any submittals to be deferred, insure that you track them.

The codes are hundreds of pages long. Not every code is needed for every building, but you can see that the size of the code is as it is in order to complete the designs for buildings to a minimal level of protection of health, safety and welfare.

(Note: If you have found the information here helpful and would like to purchase a copy of the building code for yourself through one of our affiliate links, where no charge is added to your bill, but we receive a small commission from Amazon, you can click on this link: 2013 California Building Code, Title 24 Part 2 (2 volumes – includes parts 8 & 10)).

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