Those of us without engineering degrees tend to take the buildings in which we live and work for granted. We simply assume that if we go indoors, the ceiling isn't going to suddenly collapse. Of course, buildings can remain upright and structurally sound with proper maintenance and upkeep. Maintaining a building sounds like common sense, but inevitably some boards avoid it.
After all, maintenance work can often be expensive and intrusive. Fortunately, we have building and safety codes to encourage regular maintenance—and protect the irresponsible and naïve from themselves. Since we're not all engineers, boards and managers need to rely on inspections and consultations to make sure their community isn't the site of an avoidable tragedy.
The Gold Standard
Statewide, New Jersey uses the International Building Code and the International Residential Code as its rubric for building safety. The IBC and IRC are the established standard worldwide, and many states in the U.S. adopt them as a baseline for building inspection. “A few of the towns have their own codes, which supersede the minimum requirements of the state code. The state uses the international building code, which many of the states in the country use,” says Gary Gartenberg, a senior engineer at The Falcon Group, which specializes in engineering, architectural and energy consulting services, in Bridgewater.
To the layman, building codes can seem convoluted, but broken down, the codes deal with the most important safety elements dealing with a building’s structure. “Some of them have to do with different occupancies, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fire codes, for example,” says Lynn Voorhees, director of community association services at DW Smith Associates, LLC, a professional consulting and engineering firm in Farmingdale.
New Jersey has used the 2009 edition of the IRC, but will soon adopt the new 2015 version. “The codes that are usually updated the most are the fire codes. They have to have alarms, and whether buildings have to be sprinklered. Currently, they're going to require that sprinklers be installed in all townhomes—that's in the works now in New Jersey,” says Voorhees.