Yesterday’s Code Seminar and Thinking

October 13th, 2005 by Peter Schmelzer

Internantional Building Code seminar sponsored by AIA Minnesota
Yesterday I spent the day at the U’s Earl Brown Continuing Education Center. As part of our commitment to continuing education and improvement, I went to learn more about the 2003 International Building Code (IBC), which Minnesota has adopted, effective next year.

Building codes are another way states, counties, and cities protect the public. Codes set the minimum standard for safe, healthy buildings. The IBC and the MN Amendments form the Minnesota State Building Code, which applies to most buildings. One- and Two-family dwellings are covered by the IRC (International Residential Code) and its Amendments.

As a lisenced architect, one of my responsibilities is applying the building codes to the design of buildings.

Topics that we covered yesterday included occupancy classifications; incidental uses; accessory uses; construction type classifications; occupancy separations; allowable height and areas; building location implications; means of egress; exit types and fire resistance of materials and assemblies.

These topics (and the rest of the building code) are not the glamorous side of architecture, but are the nuts and bolts of solid design. As architects, we are trained to coordinate building codes with the myriad of other parameters that come together in a successful building: aesthetics, HVAC systems, lighting, acoustics, views, cladding, gravity loads, wind loads, finishes, function, flow, accessibility, and beauty (to name a few.)

How do we do that? Architects excel at integrated thinking (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts) versus reductionist thinking (systems studied indepently). Integrated thinking brings things together experts in various specialities, while reductionist thinking best serves the specialities. As technology advances, more and more experts must come together to keep up. That is why architects hire engineers to help with the details of construction systems. May be a little off topic, but this reveals a bit more about architects and their role in the design and construction continuum.

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