What follows is a list of selected Federal Agencies, their use of model codes and how they participate in code change decisions.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is involved in several aspects of building construction as an owner, landlord and guarantor. The Department owns properties that it uses for public housing. It also guarantees loans for single and multi-family dwellings. (This is mostly done through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) - which is a department within HUD.) (See FHA - this page.)
Until recently, HUD participated in code changes at BOCA, SBCCI, ICBO/IAPMO, and for the CABO 1 & 2 Family Dwelling code. They cannot participate any more because of a lack of personnel. The main criteria HUD uses/references for buildings that they own and/or build or guarantee are called Minimum Property Standards (MPS). The MPS have been in existence since 1946 and are revised every 3-5 years. Three model codes are referenced throughout the MPS (Specifically, the UPC, SPC, and NPC) which means that most detailed MPS requirements have been dropped in favor of the model codes.
HUD has field offices across the U.S. that make the final determination on which code will be used for a particular project. The MPS is used as a reference in making this decision, but many times, the local governing code is the one that is used when the determination is made that it satisfied MPS requirements.
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
The FHA is a department within HUD and also uses the Minimum Property Standards (MPS). The FHA essentially insures mortgages. A bank will provide a mortgage to a homeowner and the FHA will underwrite that mortgage. If the owner defaults on the bank loan, the FHA purchases the property and sells it, either through a real estate agent or an auction, or turns the property into public housing. FHA requires that any buildings/homes that it insures be built to a code. Usually the local governing code is the one that is used. If there is no local governing code, or if the local governing code will allow, the MPS will be used.
Department of Energy (DOE)
DOE is not involved in building construction. It is charged with monitoring the model codes and evaluating their requirements to make sure that they are compatible with energy conservation requirements in federal laws.
DOE participates in many of the code change hearings for different model code organizations (BOCA, SBCCI, ICBO, CABO). According to a mechanical engineer who participates in the model code hearings, DOE is in support of one national plumbing code.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA builds and re-builds housing due to destruction from natural disasters. They normally use the local governing code as their code of choice. One interesting item to note is that they only contribute enough funding to build to satisfy the minimum code requirements, not to exceed them.
FEMA participates in the development of "the major" model codes by attending hearings and submitting code changes (i.e. BOCA, SBCCI, IAPMO/ICBO, and CABO).
General Services Administration (GSA)
GSA is charged with building all new Federal Buildings. They build to specifications in any of the three model codes, and allow the code with local jurisdiction to prevail. They do participate in code change processes. They are members of ICBO, SBCCI, and BOCA. The issue they are most interested in is Seismic safety. They feel that the model building codes all address this issue adequately at this point, and therefore, allow any of them to be used in building specifications.
Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)
NOW PART OF THE RURAL ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
FmHA is a division within the Department of Agriculture. They are a lending institution providing money for single and multi-family dwellings and public facilities in rural areas of the U.S. This is similar to the FHA except that FmHA actually loans the money to the people/cities doing the building, whereas FHA underwrites a loan from a bank. They can be involved in the development of water and sewer systems, schools, etc. as well as private housing. FmHA allows their state offices to make the decision as to which code to use.
FmHA does participate in model code development. They are members of all the model code organizations, but participate actively in the CABO 1 & 2 Family Dwelling Code development process.
Army Corp of Engineers (Corp)
The Army Corp of Engineers (Corp) is split into three different departments. One, is the Military Programs Dept.(in charge of army and air force construction worldwide), two is the Civil Works Dept.( responsible for building dams, reservoirs, and waterways, etc.), and three is the Public Works Dept. (responsible for maintenance of army facilities). Additionally, within each department there are three major categories, they are: Headquarters, Divisions, and Districts.
The Corp has "Guide Specifications" which are used for building requirements. These Guide Specifications use language taken directly from the different Model Codes. (Most of the time they use what they consider to be the "most stringent" code language in the Guide Specs.) The Guide Specs are recommendations on how to build. However, the Districts are the local offices and they make all the final decisions on code use and supervise the construction projects.
The U.S. Navy works much like the Corp of Engineers. They are involved in building all Naval facilities worldwide. They, too, have Guide Specifications that contain language from all of the model codes. The Project Engineer at their local offices makes the final determination on which code to use in the particular project. The buildings department of the U.S. Navy is also a member of the CABO Board for Coordination of Model Codes (BCMC). According to the engineer we talked to, they are trying to develop one national building code.