2013 - 4th Quarter

Building Code Administration

By Beth Asbury, University Engineer

One of the responsibilities of Facilities Planning and Development (FPD) is Building Code Administration.  If you build a house in Columbia or in the Boone County, then you submit plans to the respective code administrator (the Authority Having Jurisdiction) for review at either the city or the county.  They perform a review of your plans for compliance to the building code, and once approved you may start construction.  During the construction process, city or county inspectors will inspect your project for compliance to the code.  The intent is to be sure your building follows the industry standard practices in safety.

 The University of Missouri is its own Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).  This responsibility is delegated to the Assistant Vice President of Management Services who relies on the technical expertise of FPD to review and evaluate code issues.  The University uses the International Code Council (ICC) suite of codes, select National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other internationally recognized standards such as ASHRAE (American Society of Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers). These codes include all aspects of a building including; the type of occupancy, the structural components of the building, egress requirements, mechanical systems, plumbing, electrical fire protection, etc.    

The “code” is the minimum requirements that experts in the building and fire protection industry have determined to be required for the building to be safe for occupants.  For example, the University’s adopted building code, International Building Code (IBC) makes sure that the corridors and stairwells are wide enough, based on the calculated occupant load, for all occupants in the building to exit safely in the event of a fire, or some other crisis.  It also sets the maximum distance an occupant has to travel to reach a protected stairwell, and that all occupants have access to the required number of exits.  The IBC also sets the required fire rating of the stairwell, which is based on the occupant load, the number of floors, and whether the building has a sprinkler system, etc.  Most stairwells have a minimum 1 to 2 hour required fire rating, which means that if the building catches on fire it should take the extended amount of time provided by the fire rated construction for the fire to penetrate the stairwell. The intent is that once an individual reaches a stairwell they have time to be safely evacuated from the building.  The building code also looks at where your building is being built.  If you are in known earthquake zones, then the seismic restraint requirements for your structural systems is different than for other areas.  The seismic requirements also demand additional restraints on piping and light fixtures, so they don’t fall from the ceiling and hit people during an earthquake.  The National Electrical Code (NEC) gives requirements for all aspects of the electrical system in the building from the utility entrance all the way to the end devices such as the light fixture.  The International Mechanical Code (IMC) determines the quantity of outside air that is introduced into each space to maintain adequate indoor air quality, so that contaminants such as carbon monoxide don’t build up in a room, etc.

 Failure to comply with code has resulted in many tragedies that have been witnessed all over the world.  In January 2010, Haiti was totally devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake and over 220,000 people were killed.  Haiti had no building code enforcement.  In February 2010, Chile had an 8.8 magnitude earthquake.  The death toll was less than 1,000.  The reason given for the low death toll in Chile was “Chile’s widespread adoption and enforcement of modern, seismic-resistant building practices has mitigated the potential for devastation.”  There are many reasons for making sure the University’s buildings are built to a minimum code standard including energy efficiency, accessibility, and most importantly, life safety.  Following the codes does make a difference.


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