What Code Should I Follow?

A practical guide to selecting the right code for your next glass railing installation


Codes and compliance are a complex matter – and navigating all that goes into determining which code to follow for any given glass railing job can present challenges for any glazer or metal fabricator.


Identifying the most sensible code to follow for a given project requires taking into consideration optimal safety, liability, costs and a host of other factors. Adding to the complication are recent modifications to the International Building Code (IBC), which changed certain requirements for glass railings and impacted local code adaptations. In short – selecting the right code to follow is complex, and there isn’t one clear path. This puts a premium on code expertise.


Before you begin your next job, here are key considerations for every glazer and metal fabricator to keep top of mind, and steps to ensure you select the right code.


Ensure the Specified Code Meets Your Project Criteria

For glass installers and metal fabricators alike, profitability depends on getting in and out of the job as quickly as possible – in essence, much of the focus is on the actual installation. So it may be easy to look at specifications for glass railing systems and the applicable codes without understanding or questioning “why was this code specified?”


In reality, with so many local variations of the model codes, it’s difficult even for the architects/specifiers to stay on top of them all. Doing so requires constant education, reaffirmation and a deeper appreciation of what should actually be looked at for the specific job. Oftentimes as a result, architects pull from their own locale or use central resources/codes as a reference code when specifying.


This issue in following central resources/general referencing practices is that localized factors, such as geography, topography, building design and building use, need to be considered to ensure the product performs as needed. To ensure you meet the right guidelines for your next project, it’s important to remember model codes are measuring sticks that are adapted and modified locally – and may not be regionally, locally, or project specific.


Understand Key Factors in Determining the Right Code

There isn’t a single approach to following the right code and ensuring code compliance. So what is the right code? That answer depends on a host of factors that each have to be carefully vetted. There are, however, overarching factors of which every glazer and metal fabricator should be aware.


Consider the benefits to the end user, as well as profitability and liability:

  • Protect life/safety: Keeping the end user in mind should always be a primary consideration. A building code is a minimum safety standard, and therefore, depending on the specific project, there may be value in heightened, safety measures beyond what the building code requires. The key question is “what is your product being asked to perform against?”
  • Meet local standards and needs: Geographical or topographical differences may necessitate high-stringent codes – such as the Los Angeles County Building Code or Miami-Dade Building Code. However, be aware that these highly localized and geography-sensitive codes are often referenced in geographic locations with dissimilar stringency requirements.
  • Ensure against liability: A glass railing system not properly specified or installed may result in a huge liability in terms of life-safety and cost. If an inspector determines an installation doesn’t meet applicable codes, the installer will be required to make repairs or improvements – at the installer’s expense.


Leverage the Experts and Authorities to Ensure Compliance  

Glazers and metal fabricators need to understand which code to follow based upon the specific application of their project and local standards. But what is the best way to determine specific application requirements when it comes to product needs? How do you determine the local standards? When should you get the experts involved?


Here are three steps any glazer or metal fabricator can follow to ensure the right code is met on the next job:


Step 1 – Turn to a trusted supplier to help you frame your project and product needs: Before you turn to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) you need to be prepared. That’s why it’s important to turn to the experts in railings first. A good supplier can guide you with the right questions and direction, in terms of what you need in order to meet the requirements of your specific project. With a clear assessment of building use, application, geographical concerns, and all that affects the specified glass railing system and installation, you will be prepared for your meeting with the local AHJ.

Step 2 – Always consult with the local AHJ to confirm local requirements and interpretations: Building codes and standards register hundreds of pages across a range of building requirements. They can change and be constantly updated. Even for those most intricately involved in the local codes, it’s a lot to follow. Don’t take any risks. Ensure you meet the latest and appropriate local requirements and interpretation by consulting the AHJ.

Step 3 – Use your supplier as a guide for good installation techniques: It’s not only about following the right code. When it comes to meeting the code and protecting against liability, proper specification and installation is critical. A good supplier can help you meet specification for your glass railing system and work with you to come up with a solution that meets project needs whether custom or off-the-shelf.


Your Resource and Guide

Code compliance is complex, and the requirements, standards and codes that apply vary project-to-project. While there isn’t a simple book to follow, you can set yourself up for success with help from the experts who can guide you through the challenges of meeting local requirements while balancing profitability. Remember to always consult with the local AHJ to confirm local requirements and interpretations. However, before you do, leverage the experts to help you based upon the specific application, geography, and other project factors.


Turn to the experts as a resource and guide for understanding code – it will provide clarity and needed assurance for your next railing installation.