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Research Guides

Codes and Regulations

Standards become Regulations

When standards are adopted by a governing body they become part of the regulatory code of that body. These standards (or regulations or codes) are no longer voluntary and must be adhered to by the affected parties. For example the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is the codification of standards accepted and made into law by the U.S. government.

What are Building Codes?

From NIST:
Building codes are laws that set minimum requirements for how structural systems, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), natural gas systems and other aspects of residential and commercial buildings should be designed and constructed. In the U.S., building codes mostly fall under the purview of state and local governments. 

Lawmakers and government officials in most jurisdictions do not build their codes from scratch. Instead, they start with common draft language — called a model code — the requirements of which they may tighten or loosen, tailoring the code to their state, county or city’s needs. Read more from NIST.

Finding Codes in the UW Libraries

Many local (city and county) codes are based on these codes. If you are working on a project in a specific area, be sure to find out what codes apply to that jurisdiction.

International Building Code
Located in Built Environments or Engineering Library. Check the Library Catalog for specific years and locations.
Many local building codes are based on this standard code. Related codes include the International Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, and International Fire Code. Check the Library Catalog for availability and location information.

Uniform Building Code

Engineering Library Reference, 1st floor.
The UBC was last published in 1997 and has been superseded by the International Building Code. We have a copy of the 1997 edition and earlier editions.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
The NFPA produces the National Fire Codes which is a compilation of codes, standards, recommended practices, and guides.
Our most current edition of the National Fire Code is on the 1st floor of the Engineering Library Standards Area at call number: TH9111.N375a. Older editions are on the 4th floor at the same call number.

NFPA 70 is also known as the National Electrical Code (NEC) and our most current edition is located in the Engineering Library Standards Area on the 1st floor at call number TK260 .N3. Older editions are on the 4th floor at the same call number.

Building Codes Illustrated: the Basics (ebook, online)
Ching, Francis D. K., 1943- author.
"Building codes and standards are an integral part of architecture and engineering education. Published by the International Code Council (ICC), the International Building Code (IBC) establishes minimum regulations addressing the design and installation of building systems through requirements emphasizing performance and are intended to safeguard the public health and safety. First published in 2000, the code is updated every three years."

R.S. Means , Reed Construction Data publishes a range of guidebooks for finding costs and using estimating methods in various phases of construction projects. Check the Library catalog for details on a specific title.

Finding Building Codes Online

  • ADA Home Page

    The Americans with Disabilities act has many implications for building design and construction.

  • Building Energy Codes Program (US Dept of Energy)

    The program's mandate is to help states adopt and implement progressive energy codes.

  • U.S. Green Building Council

    A non-profit organization and the developer of the LEED certification system. Resources for green building.

  • State Building Code Council: Washington State Building Codes
    The Washington State Building Code is comprised of several different codes. Most are national model codes adopted by reference and amended at the state level. Others, such as the Washington State Energy Code, are state-written state-specific codes. The SBCC site provides links to the state-written codes and state amendments  that make up the WSBC. These include:

    • Building code

    • Residential code

    • Mechanical code

    • Fire code

    • Plumbing code

    • Energy code

    • Ventilation code

    • 1991 Washington State Historic Code

  • I-Codes Building Codes - ICC Digital Codes

    The International Code Council (ICC) develops codes and standards used to construct residential and commercial buildings and structures.The I-Codes building codes site is designed to allow you to view the International Codes, State-Adopted Codes, and various Archived Codes for free. Includes the International Building Code (IBC).


    Links to codes for many cities and towns.

  • United States Access Board

    A federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.