Services: Architecture, Engineering and Construction
ENR Top Design Firms Rank: #13
Richard M. Horeis, AIA, NFPA, ICC
Director, Technical Review Services, Professional Associate
At HDR, architects and engineers are required to understand how a specific code will influence their design, just as they are required to know how to apply theory specific to their discipline.
Quite often the challenge to the code-inexperienced staff is to 'look it up'. HDR has experienced individuals who are focused on codes; that when an answer cannot be found by a staff member, will either assist the production teams or do research themselves to get the answers.
Each project, at the outset, is required to have at the least, primary codes defined. This is probably the easiest question to research. Typically the question can be answered online, or identified by contacting the local authority or authorities having jurisdiction.
Not all code issues can be resolved at the front end of a project; as the design of the facility develops, so does the code analysis. Project review milestones performed by independent (from the project), experienced architects and engineers assure that not only proper design practices are occurring, but also proper code compliance.
As far as being aware of the latest codes and developments, HDR is subscribed to the appropriate code agencies so that employees can receive notifications and updates to the codes. The major code agencies usually also publish a document identifying the updated elements.
Working not only nationally, but also internationally there are many state and municipal codes that have to be maintained and complied with. These changes are monitored and identified to the appropriate offices and staff. However, the staff 'local' to a project is ultimately responsible for maintaining their code database. There is nothing equal to discussing a project with the AHJ early and often.
HDR does keep hard copies of most codes in-house as some still like the weight and feel of the book. Newer on-line accessibility has been provided by organizations such as ICC and NFPA; but HDR also utilizes MADCAD as a 'one-stop-shop' for most of the design codes (all disciplines) we use. If a hard copy of a section is needed, a printer usually is not too far. The online systems are user friendly and are much easier to 'carry' to the job site with a laptop.
Typically, I (and others at HDR) attend seminars put on by ICC, NFPA, ASHE, etc.; especially when new codes are issued. When critical code changes come to light, in-house training is provided, normally through Lunch and Learn programs. We do register these programs with the appropriate associations, such as the AIA so that appropriate credits are awarded to the attendees.