How is the IBC Organized? Tips & Tricks.
The International Building Code (IBC) is organized into 35 chapters, each covering a different aspect of building design or construction.
Chapter 1, Scope and Administration, provides the overall scoping language for the code: when it applies, the intent and purpose of the code, duties of the code official, requirements for permitting, and numerous other requirements. Nearly all jurisdictions amend Chapter 1 of the IBC, so be sure to check the applicable language for your project.
Chapter 2, Definitions, provides a list of definitions for terms used in the IBC.
Chapter 3, Occupancy Classification and Use, defines the various occupancies recognized by the code.
Chapter 4, Special Detailed Requirements based on Use and Occupancy, provides specific requirements that only apply to certain projects, such as requirements for high-rise buildings or requirements for residential projects.
Chapter 5, General Building Height and Areas, provides requirements for the allowable height, area and number of stories in a building, and also describes different approaches for mixed occupancy buildings.
Chapter 6, Types of Construction, defines the various building construction types, plus the allowable materials and required fire resistance ratings for each type.
Chapter 7, Fire and Smoke Protection Features, provides requirements related to types of fire-resistance rated assemblies and requirements when there are openings or penetrations in these assemblies.
Chapter 8, Interior Finish, provides requirements for wall, ceiling, and floor finishes.
Chapter 9, Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, provides requirements for fire sprinkler, fire alarm and various other types of systems.
Chapter 10, Means of Egress, provides requirements for all portions of the means of egress, including the number of means of egress, the arrangement of means of egress, and required fire resistance ratings.
Chapter 11, Accessibility, provides requirements related to accessibility. This chapter must be applied in conjunction with other accessibility requirements that may apply to a project.
The remainder of the code provides specific requirements related to individual portions or components of the building.
Chapter 12. Interior Environment, provides requirements related to the ventilation, lighting, sound and other factors impacting the interior of a building.
Chapter 13, Energy Efficiency, provides minimum requirements related to energy efficiency.
Chapter 14, Exterior Walls, and Chapter 15, Roof Assemblies and Rooftop Structures both provides requirements for these specific building components.
Chapter 16, Structural Design, establishes minimum structural design criteria and works in conjunction with Chapter 18, Soils and Foundations.
Chapter 17, Special Inspections and Tests, defines all the situations where a special inspection is required for the building.
Chapters 19-26 provides requirements based on building materials. For example, requirements for wood can be found in Chapter 23 and requirements for plastics can be found in Chapter 26.
Chapters 27-29 provides specific requirements for Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing Systems.
Chapter 30, Elevators and Conveying Systems, provides requirements related to elevators and hoistways.
Chapter 31, Special Construction, provides requirements for various building components that are not addressed elsewhere in the code, for example pedestrian walkway and canopies.
Chapter 32, Encroachments Into the Public Right-of-Way, provides requirements for building components that encroach in sidewalks, streets or other public spaces.
Chapter 33 provides safety requirements that apply during construction.
And finally, Chapter 35 provides a list of all the standards that are references in the IBC.
Within each Chapter of the IBC, there is a general hierarchy - each chapter has initial series of sections, and then the sections have further subsections. So, a reference to IBC 706.6.2 means Chapter 7, Section 6 and then down to the further subsections 6 and 2.
This hierarchy is important to understand, because requirements only apply within the context of the section or subsection where they are located. For example, IBC 707.6 provides requirements for openings, but because this subsection is under the "Fire Barrier" section, those requirements only apply to fire barriers, but not to other assemblies such as fire walls or fire partitions.
NAVIGATION: TABLE OF CONTENTS
The printed version of the IBC is over 700 pages, so it helpful to have an intentional approach when trying to navigate through the code.
One method would be to use the table of contents, which lists each chapter and section. If you can find a section heading related to your topic, you can usually get fairly close to the correct page right off the bat. This method also helps to confirm that a specific code section actually applies to your situation, since you will see the chapter and section headings before you navigate to the specific subsection.
NAVIGATION: SEARCH FUNCTION
Another method is to use the search function (such as CTRL+F) on the online or pdf version of the code to find a specific term or reference.
More experienced code users may like this method since its faster than the first one, but you can also easily miss the context of a code requirements as you jump to different search results.
A third method is to use the index in the back of the IBC to find all the code sections that use a certain word or term.
Some users of the IBC may have wondered if there is any advantage to attempting to memorize portions of the code. In my experience, this is not a worthwhile activity. The code changes every 3 years and jurisdictions have the ability to amend or modify any section of the IBC. Instead of attempting to memorize a code section, I find that requirements that I frequently use, such as means of egress requirements, naturally stick in my mind over time as I reference them. So for example, I have never attempted to memorize IBC Table 1004, but I can tell you from experience that residential area require an occupant load factor of 1:200.
TIPS FOR USING CODE
The more you use the code, the more you'll find your own tips and tricks for quickly navigating to the correct sections and requirements. Here are a few of mine:
So how is the building code organized?
In summary, the IBC is organized by chapter, and each chapter has a hierarchy of sections and subsections. Since the code is such a large document, its helpful to have a few methods for navigating to the correct section. The more you use the code, the more you'll develop tips and trick to quickly navigate to the correction section for a given topic.
I'm Chris Campbell, this is MeyerFire University.
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