In the construction industry, the lines between a standard and a code can become blurred because there are mandatory standards and volunteer standards as well as codes. Knowing the difference between standards and codes helps with understanding the impact both have in the construction industry.
What is a Standard?
According to Webster dictionary, a standard is “something established for use as a rule or basis of comparison in measuring, judging capacity, quantity, content, context, extent, value, quality, etc.” Standards are the benchmark in which we compare everything else and these standards directly affect our consumer’s lives. Within our industry, standards allow for reliability, consistency and compatibility.
Standards are not regulated by a governing body, but are a consensus of rules developed by all interested stakeholders taking into consideration their processes. Even if a standard is set, the standard is usually not so specific that there is no variation within the industry. For some standards, the base is set and the industry players add their own technology to allow for variation of products.
In many cases a standard is not changed regularly. Standards almost become like a tradition. To break the tradition, you need to get everyone within the industry on board with the change. This can prove to be difficult if there is not an association or governing body pushing for the change. If a player within the industry goes against the standard, there can be ramifications from the purchasers of the product and the other industry players.
What is a Code?
Codes are generally defined as a body of laws developed and regulated by a government. A code is similar to a standard in that is establishes a rule. Unlike a standard, if a code is not in compliance, consequences are determined by the governing body.
In many case, codes are written in code (obligatory) language which express the enforceability of the code. For example, the code will use the word “shall” instead of the word “may”. The codes are changed or revised regularly in order to stay in sync with new technological advances. In some cases, a standard can become a code.
Codes and standards are important parts of our construction industry’s processes. Codes don’t allow for the option of compliance, whereas standards allow for convenience, ease of use and prevention of confusion throughout the industry. On your next project, think about how the industry’s codes and standards you use compare to one another.