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What You Need to Know to Stay Compliant When Building a New Home

As an architect or developer, you take pride in knowing that you built a safe and resilient home. When people enter it, they shouldn’t have to worry about their personal safety because they know that the construction is robust and will endure the test of time and nature. People are justified in expecting that their homes are safe, and building codes and standards are the foundation of this expectation.

These codes and standards comprise a thorough set of related regulations that govern the construction, remodeling, renovation, demolition, and repair of homes. As numerous as the objectives of building codes are, the main goal is to protect the wellbeing, safety, and health of the public when it comes to the building and occupation of homes.

Building codes are either model or adopted. Model codes consist of rules, recommendations, or suggested practices for others to follow when it comes to the construction and occupancy of homes. They are not legal requirements but may become so if the federal, state, or local government adopts them. Adopted codes (or simply, “codes”) are the decree of the jurisdiction, and they define a minimum standard to which homebuilders must adhere.

A code addresses a specific aspect of building performance. For example:

  • Building code addresses the design and construction of a building
  • Energy code regulates energy conservation
  • Fire code covers life safety for protection against fire and related risks during occupancy

Sometimes, a jurisdiction — such as the federal, state, or local government — may supplement or amend model codes to suit regional needs. Thereafter, they may adopt the model code into law and make it part of the jurisdiction’s building, energy, or fire code. Upon adoption, the codes become enforceable by law to ensure compliance. The relevant authorities may order homeowners, designers, or builders who fail to meet code requirements to make repairs or cease construction.

Failure to heed the orders may lead to a fine, revocation of the building permit or an order to demolish all or part of the building. Likewise, failure to meet code requirements may lead to the cancellation of insurance, serious legal issues, or an inability to secure a connection to utilities. The authorities may deem the home unfit for occupation because it poses serious safety risks. For these reasons, compliance with building codes is imperative.

Code Types and Examples

The following are examples of documents and information that must be produced and codes to which all architects and developers need to adhere when building new homes.

Architectural Plans

  1. Demolition Plan listing quantity of hazardous waste (such as asbestos) or materials, if any, to be removed
  2. Foundation and Structural Floor Framing plans
  3. Floor plans, existing and proposed
  4. Exterior Elevations
  5. Structural Material Specifications
  6. Structural and Architectural Details
  7. Typical Cross Sections in each direction
  8. Shear Wall
  9. Stairway Rise and Run, Framing, Attachment and Dimensions of Members
  10. Shear Transfer and Holdown Bolt details
  11. Prefabricated Fireplace with approved listing number
  12. Section R301 Design Criteria

Mechanical, plumbing and electrical (MEP)

  1. Location and size of HVAC equipment
  2. Location of plumbing fixtures
  3. Location and size of fixtures, outlets, smoke detectors, switches, main electrical panels, and subpanels
  4. Equipment clearance requirements
  5. Title24 (California only)
  6. Compliance with energy codes
  7. Compliance with fire codes
  8. Electrical grounding systems
  9. Emergency alarm systems (where required)
  10. Compliance with California plumbing code

The codes change or are updated every couple of years. While the above lists may not be exhaustive, they give a good sense of the codes any architect or developer should expect to encounter when building new homes. One way to stay compliant and make sure your designs and plans meet all code requirements is to hire an MEP engineering consultant firm that can work with you to create the most robust plans possible.

Compliance Requirements Continually Evolve

As compliance requirements for constructing a new home become increasingly stringent, the conversation around the role of safety becomes more relevant. Consequently, the construction of homes continually evolves to match the design and climatic challenges. Codes are vital in the establishment and maintenance of a building that is safe, sustainable, resilient, and efficient. Well-defined regulations, provisions and guidelines create a framework that safeguards the structure and its occupants.

As energy, building, and fire codes intensify, the standards and code provisions for insulation will become increasingly important. The growing complexity of building envelop design necessitates the understanding of relevant codes and standards in order to design and build competitive homes. From acoustical specifications to fire safety to thermal resistance, the plethora of codes and standards for building a new home will evolve. The development of standards and codes continues to be a collaborative and transparent process that benefits from the innovations, knowledge, best practices, and advancement of all the stakeholders in the residential construction industry.

Coupled with ongoing revision, an effective framework of codes facilitates the consistency needed for the manufacturing and business environment to remain competitive. This consistency is also essential for economic robustness and conducive to advancements in products, materials, and practices of construction. As a result, the construction industry can grow and match the needs of the modern world, serving the people and organizations who contribute to thriving societies.

Work With Pro Engineering to Ensure Compliance

Pro Engineering is a strong supporter of the collaborative process that aims to advance codes and standards. We are a forward-thinking company that aims to drive change and innovation for a better tomorrow. With over 35 years of experience in the industry, we take pride in our team of well-trained and highly qualified consultants that offer services to builders, architects, designers, and developers in the Greater San Diego and Orange Counties.

From design to engineering to construction projects, we check off several boxes. Working with MEP professionals is beneficial whether you’re a building owner, architect, or contractor. We offer a full-service solution that optimizes your building performance, regardless of the size. We help you stay competitive by streamlining your construction process and improving your bottom line.

Pro Engineering ensures your HVAC, plumbing, and electrical engineering run smoothly. Our trained MEP specialists help you design systems that operate efficiently. Either before or during the construction process, we help you design an appropriate MEP layout and engineer it according to the building code. Contact Pro Engineering today, and let’s talk about your project.


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