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Standards & Specifications: A How-To Guide

The Difference Between Standards and Codes

In the context of engineering, construction, and various industries, "code" and "standard" are two important terms with distinct meanings:

Code: A code, often referred to as a building code or safety code, is a set of regulations, rules, and guidelines established by a recognized authority or government agency. These codes are designed to ensure the safety, integrity, and functionality of buildings, structures, systems, and processes. They typically define minimum requirements for design, construction, maintenance, and use of buildings or facilities. Codes are legally enforceable, meaning that compliance with them is mandatory, and failure to adhere to the code may result in penalties or restrictions.

Standard: A standard is a document or specification developed by a recognized standard-setting organization. Standards are voluntary guidelines that establish a consistent and accepted approach to processes, products, services, or systems. Unlike codes, compliance with standards is generally not legally mandated, but adherence to standards is often seen as a mark of quality, safety, and best practices.

Examples of Codes

National Electrical Code (NEC): First published in 1897 by the National Fire Protection Association, the NEC provided standardized guidelines for electrical installations. It has been regularly updated to keep pace with technological advancements and safety requirements.

Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC): Developed in the early 20th century, the UPC established standardized plumbing practices, ensuring proper installation, maintenance, and safety of plumbing systems.

Accessing Codes

To find U.S. Codes, you can use various resources available online or in print. The U.S. Codes are a compilation of federal laws enacted by the United States Congress and organized into subject-based titles. They are essential for understanding and referencing federal laws in the United States. Here are some methods to find U.S. Codes:

Official U.S. Government Websites: The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives both provide access to the U.S. Code on their official websites. These websites are reliable sources for accessing the most up-to-date versions of the U.S. Codes.

Legal Databases: Many legal research databases offer access to the U.S. Codes, such as Lexis+, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. These platforms often provide additional tools to search, annotate, and cross-reference legal information.

UofL Law Library: The Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Library has physical copies of the U.S. Code and provides access to online legal databases or resources.