How regulations and laws make a big impact on construction projects.
At Reliable Commercial Construction we like to stay on top of trends in the industry. Making Sure that we are on the cutting edge is important for a few reasons. It means that our job can be as efficient as possible, staying on-budget, and on-time. It also means that we are ready to keep the job going despite whatever new federal and local regulations may be signed into law.
Construction contractors are already familiar with regulations, they come in the form of zoning laws and building codes. Zoning laws are relatively stable, often only changing during major events, such as the declaration of a new historical landmark. In general zoning laws make the basic laws of what you can build where. Where can you build an office building, housing, or a storage facility? Your local zoning ordinances will give you the answers.
Of course, every state is different, and what exactly can be dictated by the local government is spelled out clearly on that local government’s website. For example, here is a copy of the Texas General Zoning Regulations. Some states have in-depth maps that help people learn about their zoning, such as this online interactive map that lets you visualize Connecticut’s zoning rules. If you want to find the zoning laws for your state exactly, you will have to do a search for zoning regulations and your state.
Zoning laws provide the general guidelines about what types of buildings/constructions can be placed where. For example, zoning laws are a big reason that factories aren’t often located in the middle of a city, or gas refineries across the street from elementary schools.
Building codes are another, much more specific thing. Building codes determine what the individual construction elements of a building are like. For example, what kind of insulation is allowed? How many fire escapes must a building have? Questions like these are answered by building codes, and they vary by quite a large degree from type of building to type of building. As technology, knowledge, and the economy changes, building codes often fluidly change with them. They ensure that non-harmful materials are used and that people are not at risk from potentially unstable constructions.
The first building code known is accredited to the Babylonians. Hammurabi wrote a law almost 4 thousand years ago decreeing that builders were responsible for what they made. I.e.,. If a builder’s house falls and slays the homeowner, the builder would be put to death. Modern building codes originally started hundreds of years ago, usually because of disasters. Large fires that wiped out cities caused people to write codes banning thatched roofs, and thus bolstering fire prevention. Over the years, building codes improved to make buildings safer, and minimize risks to both occupants and property.
Nowadays, more and more international building codes are being accepted in the US, but there are still federal codes that are the rule of the land.
Why do some contractors dislike building codes?
Many experienced commercial contractors are opposed to building codes. Why? Is it because they are anti-regulation, laissez-faire, let the market do whatever it wants types? Actually, quite the opposite. Quality contractors often have opposition to building codes because they result in bare minimum of construction. Just like a minimum wage can sometimes result in people getting paid less than if there weren’t a minimum wage, building codes can have the same effect.
- Building codes are laws that have to keep up with the changing world. As the world around us changes, new technologies arise, new things are learned….and well….things change. The law has to be enacted after these changes in order to be put into action. That means that sometimes new industry-changing technology appears that makes buildings safer and/or cheaper, but the building codes are still old and won’t take advantage of the new developments. Simply put, building codes can lag behind and result in worse construction.
- Too many construction contractors will build to the bare minimum. This means that they will essentially build whatever they can that passes the inspection, so the building can be approved. This results in low-quality constructions that will often not last the test of time, but that do tick all the boxes, so the building is legal.
In the name of saving money, these bare minimum standards will ultimately produce lower-quality constructions that last for a shorter period of time. They have numerous ill effects, such as lowering the property values in an area and of course, aging poorly. Additionally, contractors can use unskilled labor for less money and lower-quality materials to save on the margins while still hitting the building codes right.
So are building codes a good thing?
Over all, yes they certainly are. Their main benefits are of course safety, but they also keep us up with energy innovations.
- Safety is the number one goal of building codes. You can read about the Texas building codes here. They cover things from electricity and HVAC plumbing, gas and fuel, and life safety.
- The second main benefit of building codes is energy innovation. New technologies that save energy and money are often expensive to install, or complicated to set up, but they result in long-term savings for the tenant. Ensuring that builders follow codes for energy efficiency is great for both tenants saving money and the environment.
Stay on top of the rules during your construction
If you are worried about ensuring your building follows zoning laws and building codes, don’t worry anymore, ask us. Reliable Commercial is a team of experienced contractors who know the ins and outs of good worker training, rules and regulations, and quality building. Let us do the hard part for you. Send us any questions you may have about local building rules in your area, and let us get started on making your construction plans a reality.