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Building codes FAQ

Why do cities and towns adopt and enforce building codes?

Councils adopt and direct enforcement of building codes to protect life and property. Unsafe construction or alteration of buildings poses a significant public safety threat. Therefore, cities adopt and enforce building codes to ensure risks to the public are reduced.

City building officials and fire marshals are responsible for enforcing building codes. Some cities in the state contract with their counties or private companies to enforce building codes.

Where do the building codes come from?

The International Code Council is the nationally-recognized, member-driven authority that writes and updates building codes that state and local jurisdictions adopt. South Carolina law requires use of ICC building codes.

The South Carolina Building Codes Council is responsible for approving and modifying ICC codes for the state. The Codes Council is made up of public and private building industry officials who are appointed by the governor. A seat on the council is designated for cities and is currently held by City of Forest Acres Councilmember Curtis Rye.

What are the most current building codes?

The 2015 South Carolina or International Building Codes with South Carolina modifications for building, residential, fire, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work are the most current codes cities must adopt and enforce. Cities are not allowed to opt out of enforcing these mandatory codes. However, South Carolina cities are not required to adopt and enforce the administrative policies or procedures within the code. Instead, cities may adopt their own administrative policies and procedures.

Cities may adopt and enforce "permissive codes," which a local government may use as needed. These include the 2003 International Property Maintenance Code, Existing Building Code, and Performance Code for Buildings and Facilities.

What happens when the codes change?

If the ICC changes a code, the Building Codes Council reviews the change and votes on whether to adopt it for South Carolina. No action is required by a city, but it must enforce the change. Building officials and contractors across the state receive training on the changes as part of their state-mandated training requirements.

How are disputes about building codes addressed?

Cities may appoint a construction board of appeals to hear and rule on disputes about building code and fire code enforcement.

How much training is required for a building official?

To enforce building codes in South Carolina, building officials must be certified by a nationally-recognized organization to conduct building code enforcement. Once certified, building officials must register with the Building Codes Council, the state body that approves building codes for use.

Building officials must complete at least 24 hours of training every two years to maintain their registration with the Codes Council. The Codes Council distributes state funding to Building Officials Association of South Carolina and other entities that offer training. All municipalities enforcing building codes must employ a certified building official. An inspector who is not a building official may only inspect areas in which he is certified.

If a building official is a member of ICC, he must complete 60 hours of training every three years to maintain his membership. The ICC is a member organization that promulgates codes for use by the industry while also providing training on the codes and the building industry. 

Who hears complaints about building officials?

The SC Building Codes Council investigates and hears complaints about building officials.