As I have spent time in existing buildings over the years, whether surveying a building for potential renovations, reviewing existing conditions or doing inspections, the concept of the building “meeting code” often comes up. Building owners, building maintenance staff, or anyone that is concerned with the operation or maintenance of a building wants to know if their building is up to code. Unfortunately, “meeting code” can mean several different things, and it is easy to lose track of which codes actually apply to an existing building. Does the International Building Code apply? Or is the International Existing Building Code? Or both?
In this post, we’ll explore the various building and fire codes that could apply to your existing building. There are many other codes (e.g. electrical, elevator) that we won’t specifically address, but the general thought process for those is similar. All references will be to the 2021 ICC codes, but many states and local jurisdictions modify these requirements, so be sure to verify the specific requirements for your area.
Note: If your building is a one or two family dwelling or a townhouse, the International Residential Code (IRC) is likely the applicable code. The IBC and IEBC typically do not apply to such buildings.