Is Architecture Being Negatively Impacted By Legal Building Codes?


Architects around the world have been complaining recently that legal building codes are having a negative impact on their creativity and the building designs that they are able to bring to fruition. However, surely the law surrounding building codes is there for a good reason? Those who practise the law purport that without legislation about what can and can’t be constructed in any given area, there would be free reign to build anything and this could lead to a host of problems. However, architects remain unconvinced, citing limitations on their artistic abilities.

The Role Of The Architect, And How It’s Impacted By Legislation

Most people hold onto the belief that an architect will simply design a building. They sketch the basic shape, construct a model and then produce a lifelike rendering. There is some truth in this, but only a little. If architecture was only about creating an exciting structure, you could grab hold of a construction set and make one of these structures yourself!

Architects have a much more comprehensive scope of work, managing the process of design from start to finish, crafting the vision for the project with their client and then, only at the very end of the process, creating the physical building to meet the specifications. Creativity certainly does have a key role to play, however there is more to it than that. Technical knowledge and understanding of the law surrounding building codes is another vital element of any architect’s remit. While this aspect of this profession is regularly overlooked, it is no less important.

How Do Building Codes Affect Architects?

The building codes for any given area are the absolute minimum standards which have been put in place so that architects are unable to design or construct a structure which is unstable or dangerous. Essentially, they form a layer of requirements which are placed over any design to ensure they are fit for purpose.

One widely used building code is the IBC, a set od codes which has been published by the International Code Council. However, it isn’t as simple as that. All states and many major cities also have their own codes which must be taken into account too by architects when drawing up their designs. This makes the job of any architect a much more complex one. Architects have to comply with the law, and that means adapting their creativity to suit its requirements.

Of course, the purpose of the codes isn’t to annoy architects and make their lives difficult. They’re certainly not in place to stifle creativity or artistic design. Rather they focus on safety. Building code legislation defines and controls a range of elements in a structure including the amount of viable exists, how much air can flow freely through the building and sprinkler and fire suppression systems. Legislation surrounding building codes takes into account everything from emergencies such as earthquakes or fires to basic functionality for those who use the building every day.

Why Is Legislation So Important When It Comes To Architecture?

Despite the complaints of architects, when we look at the ways in which the functionality of buildings can be impacted by poor design, it becomes clear that laws need to be put in place to prevent problems from occurring. Without such laws, mildly irritating situations – for example, not being able to roll two suitcases past each other in a hotel corridor – could rub shoulders with much more serious implications – for example too few restrooms in a public building which leads to unhygienic conditions.

We only need to look back to a time when architects were free to simply use a single pane of glass as a window to see why the law had to get involved. Glass has no thermal qualities, and that means single panes of glass aren’t fit for purpose as a window to protect those occupying the building from cold in the winter. These days, now the law has stepped in, double glazing is an absolute minimum building requirement. Also, shatterproof glass is required to protect those inside and outside the property.

It’s clear that the laws surrounding building codes is here to stay, and may even become more complex and prescriptive as time goes on. While architects may protest, for those who have to live and work in those buildings, it has to be good news for their health, safety and comfort.