A designer works under complex legal constraints that exert a powerful influence on the form abuilding may take. Local zoning ordinances control building uses,heights, areas, distances from property lines, and on-site parking capacities. Building codes enacted at the municipal, county, state, or provincial level regulate everything from building heights and areas to the types of interior finish materials that may be used. Further constraints are often imposed by local fire districts, by health and safety regulations pertaining to particular uses, and by regulations governing equal access to public facilities and housing.

Zoning laws and use-specific codes are most often promulgated at the local level and do not lend themselves to simple generalization from one jurisdiction to the next. For this reason, this book does not attempt to address these requirements, and the designer should consult the regulations in effect for guidance in these areas.

On the other hand, although building codes are also enforced at local levels, the vast majority of North American building codes are derived from just a few nationally recognized model codes. The use of model codes as the basis for the majority of local building codes results in sufficient standardization that these regulations can be simplified and generalized in a meaningful way. Thus, preliminary guidelines can be provided for incorporating building code
requirements into your project.

This book provides building code information based on two model building codes: the International Code Council’s 2021 International Building Code and the National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes’ National Building Code of Canada, 2015.

1 These two model codes form the basis for the vast majority of building codes enacted by jurisdictions throughout the United States and Canada. This book condenses from these two model codes the provisions that have the most direct effects on building form: height and area limitations, beginning on page 371, and requirements for the design of egress systems and accessible spaces, starting on page 267. Code requirements having to do with the detailed design of structural and mechanical components of buildings are reflected here indirectly through the preliminary sizing charts for structural elements (beginning on page 55) and the rules of thumb for providing space for mechanical and electrical systems (beginning on page 185).

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