So how do owners guarantee that the design firm they hired provides designs for buildings and building systems that meet the minimum requirements defined by law?  It starts with code compliance.

The International Mechanical Code (IMC) has “code” in the title, so it’s obviously a code, correct? Not quite. Unless the IMC has been adopted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) - which are typically state governments, counties, fire districts, and municipalities - it is nothing more than a reference or standard which just happens to be written in codified language. For a reference or standard to be considered a “code” it has to be adopted by the AHJ(s). From this point on documents and specific references that are referred to within a “code” also become “code.” An easy example of this is the IFC and the National Fire Protection Association Standard #13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (NFPA 13). By itself NFPA 13 is a design standard published by the NFPA. However, in the IFC-2009 edition - this assumes of course that the IFC has been adopted by the AHJ – Section 903.3.1.1 requires that automatic sprinkler systems be designed and installed per NFPA 13. Guess what? NFPA 13 just became “code.”

Next time, request code studies and reports

For energy performance, many states and municipalities already require ComCheck reports as part of the permit process. ComCheck is a software program developed by the U.S. Department of Energy to, “simplify and clarify … energy code compliance”. This helps ensure that the building or building systems were designed to substantially comply with the applicable energy code. This is a really good idea but many times the ComCheck reports are ignored until it is time to submit the permit application, which sometimes requires last minute rework by the A/E firm. My recommendation is that when negotiating deliverables with A/E firms, request that they provide code studies and ComCheck reports at each deliverable phase. A code study, from a mechanical standpoint, is simply a review of the applicable codes for each mechanical system that will be included in the design.

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