Texas Building Codes Deciphered
As construction professionals we all understand the difficulties of deciphering the varied building codes in Texas. As a “Home Rule State”, building codes are not uniform, but left to the discretion of officials at the local level. This allows for varying building standards and codes throughout all Texas cities and counties.
Building codes govern how projects are designed, constructed, and even maintained. Although most states have uniform state-wide building codes, the decentralized codes adopted at local levels in Texas have both positives and negatives.
A positive aspect of the decentralized codes is the control a local jurisdiction has to meet its specific needs. We have all experienced the various conditions associated with building in areas with differing types of soil, patterns of land use, climate considerations, as well as other unique geographical issues. While addressing these conditions at the local level is beneficial to constructing in those areas, it also creates a difficult and confusing navigation for building professionals. Architects, builders, and developers must all spend time researching the project location’s building codes. This navigation can be both time consuming and potentially costly.
Deciphering building codes is essential to our membership. Our construction professionals live and work in a state of approximately 268,596 square miles with 254 counties (more than any other U.S. state) comprised of rural areas, metropolitan areas, and cities, large and small; all of which encompass 7 major regions, including Big Bend Country (remote, yet beautiful), Hill Country (rolling countryside), South Texas Plains (rolling countrysides, as well as desert), Panhandle Plains (home of the second largest canyon in the U.S.), Gulf Coast (includes more than 350 miles of coastline, as well as barrier islands), Piney Woods (home to 4 National Forests and a bevy of streams), and Prairies & Lakes (dominated by the D/FW area).
So, how do we navigate the perplexity of building in our great State? The USHCA has undertaken the initiative to forge relationships with building officials throughout Texas. We have recently concluded a very productive meeting with building officials in Dallas and are coordinating a follow up meeting in Austin to include our very own City of Austin building professionals. Forming a collaborative understanding of location and/or site specific codes and establishing working relationships with our City and other city and county building professionals will allow our Association to assist our membership in navigating this complex diversity of code.
We continue to build and maintain a cooperative relationship with the City’s building professionals, which provides significant benefit to our members in the Austin area. Additionally, we look forward to expanding the realm of education, comprehension and cooperation among public entity building professionals across the state for the benefit of our Austin based membership working in the area or across the state. The greater your capability, the greater the benefit to our home city of Austin.