Changes to building codes can cause headache-inducing issues for facility managers and maintenance staff—and codes change with regularity. Retrofitting and renovating to stay up to code can sometimes seem like a waste of time—the building was operating just fine before the code changed, after all. And it’s true the building probably did. But as technology advances, new and better ways of ensuring safety, occupant health, and building resiliency are found.
Why are Building Codes Important?
Why are building codes important? All manner of reasons. Construction codes help prevent potentially catastrophic flaws in the building process. Electrical codes—which change frequently—improve both employee safety and the effective use of power.
Codes and Costs
Building codes are typically enforced at the local or municipal level, although commercial codes may be overseen by state or federal agencies. When a code changes, building owners are generally given a grace period in which they can bring the building up to code requirements without penalty.
The cost of bringing buildings in line with changing codes is high, but the cost of not doing so can be even more damaging to a facility’s bottom line. In addition to fines for non-compliance with codes, building owners also face litigation if a lack of code compliance injures someone.
Not updating to code can also represent increased day-to-day costs. New code requirements for heating, cooling, and electrical systems, for instance, can greatly reduce your energy costs. Upgrading to new code requirements generally offers a high return on investment.
Health and Happiness
Costs are by no means the only reasons to stay up to code: morale, health, and productivity are also affected.
Changes to codes regulating heating, cooling, air circulation, and construction materials improve employee and occupant health. For instance, improving the comfort level of employees through more effective HVAC systems increases productivity, while switching to carpets free from volatile organic compounds can help reduce sick time.
Changes to building codes can also better protect your facility against natural disasters and extreme weather. Staying up to code makes it easier to secure less costly insurance premiums and minimize the risk of damage during a disaster. Building codes related to natural disasters tend to be location-specific, which is why California has stricter seismic protection codes than, say, New Hampshire.
Finally, advances in green technology drive many building code changes. With increased interest in sustainable building, such changes help reduce your facility’s carbon footprint and use energy more efficiently—a trend that’s both good for the planet and helps you keep operating costs under control.
Look around your own facility, then ask yourself: why are building codes important to you?