Tag Archives: minimum code standards

Dear Building Officials

Dear Building Officials

I have met (either in person, via phone or technology) more than just a few Building Officials, Inspectors and Plans Examiners over my nearly four decades of post frame buildings. I have even been privileged to be a guest speaker for several groups of these fine folks, regarding Code conforming post frame construction. My expert opinion – collectively folks who work in Building Departments most genuinely go above and beyond their call of duty to assist building owners in building safe structures.

Several members of Building Departments are either subscribed followers of this column, or regular readers of it via Linkedin posts. These are most likely ones who are providing excellent service to those venturing into their offices.

My most recent two articles covered questions we require our clients to ask of their building officials in regards to pre-construction of a new post frame building. With these answers in hand, we can assure our contracted Registered Professional Engineers have data necessary to design, meet or exceed structural requirements.

Unfortunately, there does not exist a central clearinghouse database for structural design criteria by jurisdiction. For builders and RDPs (Registered Design Professionals) who provide services over more than just limited geographical areas, this would be a tremendous tool.

Now I do have a “hero” building department and will give them kudos here. Kittitas County (Washington) Community Development Services provides a parcel-by-parcel load analysis covering their minimum design requirements (https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/cds/building/cgdc-form.aspx).

Many building departments have posted climactic design requirements in their websites. When kept up to date, we find these to be quite handy. I would imagine RDPs appreciate availability of this information.

Recently, one of our clients in Wisconsin was facing a challenge – their Building Official would not provide them with minimum loading requirements for their proposed new building! Although rare, I have seen this occur before. In one instance, I had a Building Official refuse to provide accepted loading information. Instead they wanted us to submit engineer sealed plans and then they would tell us if what we had guessed for loading was correct or not!

Why this information was withheld baffles me. In some cases (especially where permits are issued without any sort of structural plan reviews) it could be a permit issuing authority just frankly does not know!

In my humble opinion, an expedient way to streamline permit acquisition processes would be to have readily available design criteria. For sake of public safety, I also feel all building plans not falling under prescriptive code requirements should be produced by a Registered Design Professional.

Building Codes: Constructing over minimum standards

‘I want to see people build past minimum (code) standards’: Mike Holmes

In a June 29, 2011 copyrighted article in Postmedia News, Mike Holmes says, “Anyone who knows me knows I talk an awful lot about building code. The code is a minimum acceptable standard for the construction of a building. It’s also a living, changing document that is adapted every few years to ensure it keeps up with major changes to the ways buildings are built and the materials that builders use in construction.”

Holmes goes on to say, “Even if they are minimum standards, codes matter. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of people who build to code because the building codes are minimum standards. I want to see people build past minimum standards, so that every homeowner has the safest possible living environment.”

Don’t just build to minimum code standards, plan to build above and beyond them!

In the case of pole buildings, we thoroughly agree with Mike Holmes. Sadly, we in the United States have many jurisdictions where building permits are either not required at all, or are granted without a thorough plan review and field progress inspections.

One of the largest post frame builders in the country, designs their non-permit required buildings to their own “robust” standard. To upgrade these buildings to meet code requirements involves a significant increase in price!

I am ever amazed, dumbfounded and totally appalled at clients who, after being advised of their wind and snow requirements, ask me, “What would it cost to build to lower values?”  Is throwing safety right out the window really worth saving a few bucks?

What most clients do not realize is that increases in building load carrying capacity often result in very minimal costs. A building with a low risk of human injury or death in the event of a failure (IBC Category I), is designed for the maximum design loads to be exceeded once in an average 25 year period. An upgrade to Category II doubles this to a 50 year period, with a net effective increase in snow load capacity of 25% and wind capacity by 15%.

Concerned about the lifespan of your new pole building? An increase of 10 pounds per square foot of snow load and 10 miles per hour for design wind speed means your building might very well be the last one standing, when it comes to a catastrophic event.  Don’t just build to minimum code requirements, plan to build above and beyond them, and sleep well at night knowing when you wake up, your building will still be there after a stormy night.

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