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Key Fire Prevention Changes in International Building Code 2012

September 1, 2014

This article was written by Vol. 16 No. 2 issue of Under Construction, the Newsletter of the American Bar Association’s Forum on the Construction Industry.

The origins of modern building codes lie in the Industrial Revolution.1  In fact, one of the nation’s first building codes was created as a direct result of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.2  In order to placate the National Board of Fire Underwriters who threatened to cut off insurance for business, Chicago adopted the National Building Code, directed toward protecting the building rather than the people in the building.3  As it became clear that increased regulation of the building environment was required, code practitioners banded together to promulgate several model building codes.4 These model codes were developed for subsequent adoption by local and state government agencies as legally enforceable regulations and the foundation for the modern International Building Code (IBC).5

Three groups of practitioners began to dominate the field of model building codes: Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) founded in 1915, International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), founded in 1922, and Southern Building Code Congress, International (SBCCI), founded in 1940.6 Each group established the building codes for their particular geographic region.7  BOCA developed the National Building Code (NBC) which reflects the needs of highly urbanized environments in the northeast.8 ICBO published the Uniform Building Code (UBC) in 1927, which contained structural provisions reflecting the west’s exposure to earthquakes and the need for proper seismic design.9 Finally, SBCCI developed the Standard Building Code (SBC), placing particular emphasis on wind-resistive design in recognition of the southeastern states’ exposure to hurricanes.10  Because each of these model codes reflected the needs prevalent in their region, they differed in format, content, and appearance.11

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