What are engineering standards and codes?

Standards are technical publications designed to ensure the reliability of goods, products, methods, or services. They establish technical requirements, specifications, guidelines, features, or design procedures. Standards recommend a set of tolerance for design, processes, operations, production methods, or equipments used in a particular area. Standards are not legally binding unless they are accepted as code or regulation.

Engineering code is a type of standard that is accepted and enforced by one or more government agencies. Unlike the industry standard, the code must be followed when it is legally recognized in a particular/political area or when it is included in a contractual agreement. The National Electrical Code is an example of this type of standard. All countries in the United States adopt it to protect people from electrical hazards. Model codes, developed to standard across the industry, do not work until authorized.

The rules specify the legal obligations that must be met under certain laws and serve the purposes of the normal agency. The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations are an example of this kind of standard.

ASTM International

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is a world-class organization that develops and publishes technical standards for voluntary compliance for a wide variety of materials, products, systems, and services. A further 12,575 ASTM voluntary compliance standards are in place worldwide.

It was established in 1902 as the American Section of the International Association for Testing Materials (International Testing Association), ASTM International preceded other standard organizations such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (1918), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (1947).

More than 12,000 ASTM standards are operational worldwide. Defined and set by them, it improves the lives of millions every day. Combined with their new business services, they improve performance and help everyone gain confidence in the things they buy and use.


Focuses on public health and safety, increases leadership position in the community of standards, and increases international use of ASTM products and services.

Standards and technology content development

Staying tuned and continuously improve the technical quality of standards and related content by providing the most advanced, measurable development infrastructure.

Organizational life

It provides a corporate service culture and innovation with the appropriate resources to implement the ASTM standards goal set in the interchangeability of the environment.

The headquarters of ASTM and its surroundings.
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Image credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Achim Hering

Building codes

A building code (building control) is a set of rules and guides that specify the standards for structures such as buildings. Buildings must comply with the standards to obtain planning approval, usually from a local council. The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health, safety, and general well-being as they relate to the construction and occupation of buildings and structures. Building codes become local law where they are officially issued by the relevant or private government officials.

Building codes are generally intended to be used by architects, civil engineers, interior designers, builders, and controllers but also for various purposes by security inspectors, environmental scientists, housing developers, subcontractors, manufacturers of building materials, insurance companies, managers, employers, and others.

In the US, the main codes are International Residence Code (IRC), electrical and plumbing codes, and machine codes.


The purpose of the building codes is to provide high standards of safety, health, and general well-being including building integrity, mechanical integrity (including sanitation, water supply, lighting, and ventilation), exit, fire prevention and control, and energy conservation. Construction codes usually include:

  • Building standards, placement, size, use, wall mounting, fenestration/areas, exit rules, size/area of ​​rooms, foundations, floor coverings, roof/assembly structures, energy-saving, stairs and halls, equipment, electricity, plumbing, drainage and, its maintenance, electrical equipment, lighting, repair standards, seating rules, and swimming pool rules.
  • Minimum length and size of room ceiling, exit sizes, and space.
  • Qualifications of persons or organizations performing the function.
  • With high-rise buildings, signals to skip collisions for the benefit of the aircraft.

Building codes are generally different from the design standards of spaces, but external boundaries (such as barriers) may fall into any category.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is an American professional organization that provides standards to advance the design, and construction of heating systems, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC & R) and construction. Its members are made up of construction service engineers, architects, mission contractors, property owners, equipment manufacturers, and others involved in the design and construction of HVAC & R systems in buildings.

National Electrical Code

The National Electrical Codes (NEC) are the regional standards for safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the United States. It is part of a series of national fire codes published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an independent business organization. Despite the use of the word "national", it is not corporate law. Provinces and municipalities are generally welcome to balance their compliance with safer electricity systems.

The NEC is developed by the NFPA National Electricity Code Committee, consisting of 20 coding panels and a technical liaison committee. Work on the NEC is funded by the National Fire Protection Association. The NEC is accredited as an American national standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

National Fire Protection Association

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to removing injury and economic losses as a result of fires, electrical accidents, and other related causes. As of 2018, the NFPA states that it has 50,000 members and 9,000 volunteers working with the organization through its 250 technical committees.

American Society for Mechanical Engineers

ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, further education, and skills development programs provide the basis for developing professional knowledge and a safer world. In 2020, ASME formed the International Society of Interdisciplinary Engineers (ISIE), a new for-profit company to grow businesses that will bring new products, standards, and technologies to the engineering community, and later established a holding company, Global Knowledge Solutions Limited liability company (LLC).

ASME B31 was previously known as ANSI B31. The B31 for pressure piping includes Power piping, Fuel Gas piping systems, Process piping, Pipeline transportation systems for liquid hydrocarbons and other liquids, Refrigeration piping and heat transfer components, and Building services piping.

Piping codes consist standards of auxiliary tools, flanges, gaskets, bolting, valves, inputs, and pressure class having parts of other piping components. It also includes hangers and bases, as well as other machinery needed to skip the over-pressure of parts. Excludes supporting structures such as building frames, building stanching, or foundations.

Context and Applications

This topic is important for professional exams in both graduate and postgraduate studies like

  • Bachelors in Civil Engineering
  • Masters in Civil Engineering
  • Bachelors in Electrical Engineering
  • Masters in Electrical Engineering

Practice Problems

1. Which type of ASTM standards does not advise a particular action?

  1. Guide standards
  2. Telecommunications standards
  3. Interchangeability standards
  4. Specific standards

Answer: Option a

Explanation: The guide standards have a few options or guidelines but do not recommend specific action.

2. International building codes are essential to preserve

  1. Libguides standards
  2. Telecommunications standards
  3. Public health and safety
  4. Piping components standards

Answer: Option c

Explanation: International building codes (IBC) is an important public health and safety tool that protects from environmental-related hazards.

3. Official mascot of NFPA is-

  1. Specific standards
  2. Sparky the fire dog
  3. Firefighters piping system
  4. Civil engineers

Answer: Option b

Explanation: NFPA's official mascot is 'sparky the fire dog' which promotes fire safety education for children.

4. Which of the following is a regional standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring?

  1. Piping codes
  2. Libguides standards
  3. NEC
  4. Pressure class standards

Answer: Option c

Explanation: NEC is a regional standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the United States.

5. Which of the following is written by a government agency or an organization?

  1. Piping systems
  2. Safety tips at work
  3. Piping components
  4. Engineering codes

Answer: Option d

Explanation: Engineering codes are inscribed by government agencies.

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