International Code Council (ICC)

The Formation of the International Code Council (ICC)

The International Code Council (ICC) was formed in the late 1990’s through a merger of the three code bodies serving the US at that time. The legacy code bodies were:

  • The Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), which was formed in 1915 to serve primarily the east and midwest US. They published the National Building Code. 
  • The International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), which was initially formed In 1922 as the Pacific Coast Building Code Conference. They published the Uniform Building Code. 
  • The Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), which was formed in 1940. They published the Standard Building Code. 

Additionally, The Council of American Building Officials (CABO) was formed in 1972 and published the One and Two Family Dwelling Code.

The technical content developed since their inception by the 3 code bodies was used as the basis for the ICC family of I-Codes.  The intent was to create a comprehensive set of regulations for building systems consistent with the scope of the legacy codes. The first edition of the International Building Code (2000) was the culmination of the effort. 

Plan Analyst code study software was created in the 1980’s as personal computing started to become popular.  The concept was, and remains, to automate the code study / plan review process saving building officials and industry professionals many hours compared to the traditional time-intensive manual process.  This powerful, form driven software has evolved over time and continues to be widely used to deliver on the same concept of productivity and accuracy.  The software ensures a seamless transition from one code year to another as code changes are incorporated into each new version.  Additionally, as the input required is form driven, less costly and less experienced staff can operate the software providing a high value return on code studies / plan reviews, potentially saving the much higher cost of senior staff or outsourcing to code consultants.

The International Code Council (ICC) Family of Codes

The I-Codes are published on a 3 year cycle, starting in 2000 up to the latest 2018 versions, with the 2021 codes now under development within the framework of the ICC Code Development Process.

The I-Codes family includes:

  • International Building Code
  • International Existing Building Code
  • International Energy Conservation Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Fuel Gas Code
  • International Green Construction Code
  • International Mechanical Code
  • ICC Performance Code
  • International Plumbing Code
  • International Private Sewage Disposal Code
  • International Property Maintenance Code
  • International Residential Code
  • International Swimming Pool and Spa Code
  • International Wildland-Urban Interface Code
  • International Zoning Code

Code Updating

The I-Codes are updated using the Code Development Process that provides an open (including public hearings) and transparent international forum for professionals to discuss changes to requirements.  New and updated requirements can be submitted by building officials, designers and any other interested parties.

The codes are subject to change through both the Code Development Process and governmental bodies that enact the code into law. Only a governmental body enacting the code into law has the authority to enforce compliance with it.  ICC is the developer / publisher and does not have any enforcement authority.

Code Adoption

The IBC is available for adoption and use internationally, but is mainly used within the US. Its use within a state/city/municipality/jurisdiction is through adoption in accordance with the area laws.  At the time of adoption, specific local information can be inserted in the existing code provisions.

The International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC)

The International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) are cornerstones of the International Codes (I-Codes) family published by the International Code Council (ICC).

The primary intent of both the IRC and IBC is to safeguard public health, safety, and welfare.  The IBC regulates practices used in commercial construction while the IRC regulates the practices applying to residential construction (new and existing/remodeling). 

The codes establish minimum regulations (requirements) for building systems using prescriptive and performance provisions, and through the development process makes possible the use of new materials and new building designs.  The codes provisions do not:

  • unnecessarily increase construction costs
  • restrict the use of new materials, products or methods of construction
  • give preferential treatment to particular types or classes of materials, products or methods of construction

The codes also include Referenced Standards, i.e., standards developed by other Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) that provide further definition and guidance for design and construction.

Plan Analyst for both the IBC and IRC provides a proven software driven process to quickly and accurately ensure a building’s compliance to them.  Traditionally code studies / plan reviews have been done manually by leafing through the code, following checklists, or developing encyclopedic knowledge of the codes over decades.  Plan Analyst is a painless solution that automates code studies and plan reviews saving many hours in the process.  The result is a comprehensive report that highlights areas of non-compliance.  This is especially important for both building officials and designers.  Building officials can provide the detailed and organized report to designers enabling the designers to efficiently correct their plans and resubmit.  And vice versa, designers can identify non-compliance prior to submitting plans for approval, correct their design accordingly and rerun the Plan Analyst report, then submit the report along with their plans ensuring a quick and smooth path through the local plan review.

Access to the International Code Council (ICC) I-Codes

The I-Codes are available through ICC and a number of reliable licensed or buy-and-resell sources.  ICC has authorized resellers in different ways, including different formats (print, PDF, XML), delivery media (paper, CD and online) and services (subscription).  These options enable ICC and its resellers to cater to organizations of different size and individual preference.

It isn’t generally necessary for homeowners or some casual building trade professionals to own a copy of either the IBC or IRC, since local code requirements will already specify whatever IBC or IRC provisions apply to the construction.  However, many may find it useful to have access to a copy of the IRC or IBC given the enormous amount of information they contain. 

At the other end of the spectrum, online subscription access across an organization can be extremely effective for a number of reasons including:

  • Ensures employees have access to the same version of the code
  • Software tools can enable personal productivity improvements as well as the ability to collaborate with colleagues.
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Copyright compliance

Authorized Resellers Include: ICC, BNi Books, Builders Book Source, Builders Book Depot,, IHS Markit, Techstreet, Document Center, SAI Global,, ANSI, NFPA,,, and more.

Some resellers such as IHS Markit, Techstreet, Document Center, SAI Global, and ANSI, are information aggregators and can also provide access to many of the standards referenced within the codes.

Free Code Access: After ongoing pressure to offer codes for free, ICC and some Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) offer varying degrees of free access to their codes and standards.  While access is free, these services are typically very basic and not presented in a consistent manner across publishers.  If all you need is an occasional reference this might work well, but it soon becomes necessary for organizations with multiple employees to need a more sophisticated solution, which again can be provided by resellers such as IHS Markit, Techstreet, Document Center, SAI Global, and

Automated Code Compliance

Plan Analyst code study / plan review software is an invaluable tool for people who use the IBC and the IRC.  Used by building officials and designers across the US, Plan Analyst’s parametric, form driven database checks user input from their building design and calculates compliance against the code.  This proven solution creates a comprehensive code compliance report that highlights any areas of non-compliance.  Not only does the code study save hours over a manual code study, it can save designers even more time in back and forth with their local building department should non-compliance be identified and resubmittal necessary.

Unofficial Sources: There are also unofficial sources of the IBC and IRC of which you should be wary.  If someone is offering a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is!  Use suspect sources at your own risk as there may be issues with copyright infringement, missing or otherwise altered content, or virus infected files.

ICC Membership: Any professional working with buildings should consider becoming a member of the ICC.  Not only does this provide networking opportunities with like-minded professionals, it helps stay closely connected to the code development process including voting rights, access to expert code advice, professional development opportunities, discounts on the ICC webstore, and more.