By David Kirk, AIA, NCARB
Building codes can have a profound impact on your business or organization. Simply put, a building must comply with local, state and national building codes for the specific use or activity that will take place in a building. For example, if you are considering purchasing a building for use as a restaurant, that building must comply with the requirements for an Assembly Use and meet local Health Department requirements. If the building was not originally designed as a restaurant the cost to make it compliant could entail significant renovations beyond interior design and restaurant decoration.
A few years ago a small religious congregation was looking for a building to purchase to hold church services and to grow its outreach ministries.
The church leadership team found a building they believed would meet the needs and budget of the congregation. The property was zoned to allow the land to be used for the intended purpose, a church. So the leadership team purchased the property. Once the property was under their ownership they secured the services of an architectural firm. Before starting on the renovation plans the firm conducted a due diligence study by performing a building code analysis. The analysis revealed that while the land was zoned for use as a church, the building did not meet the building code requirements for use as a church. To meet the requirements they were required to provide adequate parking spaces on the same site, provide handicap accessibility, increase exiting capacity (two exits were required from each of the building’s two levels) upgrade the building’s construction type, and add toilet rooms.
The congregation was upset because their budget was built with the understanding that they would purchase a building that did not require a lot of infrastructure improvements and the money they have would be used for cosmetic paint / fix up for the building. The congregation had to find additional financial resources to cover the tens of thousands of dollars needed to bring the building into compliance with the building code before they could use the building.
This case study demonstrates that building codes can have a significant financial impact on your business when they are not addressed early in the process of purchasing a building.
Did You Know ?
Hammurabi, who was king of Babylon some 2000 years B.C., formulated a very exacting building code. “…it stipulated that if a builder built a house and the house failed, killing the householder, the builder was to be slain….” Today’s building codes are not quite as harsh as those that existed over two thousand years ago but the requirement to design building structures that are safe for occupants and the public is still at the core of the code.
 G. Driver and J. Miles, The Babylonian Laws, 2 vols (1952,1955)
David Kirk, AIA, NCARB is Principal of DNK. He is a former City of Cincinnati, Ohio Building Code Official, with more than 35 years ‘experience interpreting, writing and enforcing building codes. In addition to practicing architecture, he consults on building code issues on a variety of public and private projects.
DNK is one of Cincinnati’s leading boutique design firms specializing in architecture, interiors, planning and landscape architecture. For over 25 years the firm has served clients – public and private, on projects in the healthcare, education and urban design markets. We creatively balance people, economics and the environment to produce transformative, sustainable solutions. For additional information contact: