Government building design: Codes and standards

When your client is the government, engineering design can be tricky, thanks to stepped-up regulations, budgetary concerns, and other considerations. Respondents discuss the intricate codes and standards for government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer April 23, 2015


  • Ian Bost, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Mechanical Engineer, Baird, Hampton & Brown Inc., Fort Worth, Texas
  • Robert Eichelman, PE, LEED AP, Technical Director, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Albany, N.Y.
  • Paul W. Johnson, PE, LEEP AP BD+C, Vice President of Mechanical Engineering, Wood Harbinger, Bellevue, Wash.
  • Katie McGimpsey, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Rockville, Md.
  • R. Scott Pegler, PE, LEED AP, Director of Mechanical Engineering, Setty, Fairfax, Va.

CSE: What codes, standards, or guidelines do you use as a guide as you work on these facilities?

Johnson: ASHRAE, UFC, International Green Construction Code (IgCC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), International Building Code (IBC), National Fire Code (NFC), NFPA, Whole Building Design Guide, NAVSEA OP-5, etc.

Bost: Those include LEED guidelines, ASHRAE 90.1, and ASHRAE 62.1.

McGimpsey: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Design Requirements Manual (DRM), UFC, ASHRAE, NFPA, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Codes, IBC, IMC, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), ANSI Z9.5, IEEE, International Plumbing Code (IPC), IFC, and ANSI Z358.1.

Pegler: The federal government uses PBS P100 for most public buildings. The military uses UFC with specific guidelines and criteria within branches like NAVFAC and Army/COE.

CSE: How have Unified Facilities Criteria, Energy Star, ASHRAE, U.S. Green Building Council, etc., affected your work on government and military projects? What are some positive/negative aspects of these guides?

Bost: Those standards have generally forced owners to improve ventilation rates and install efficient systems.

Johnson: The UFC is difficult to use due to the volume of information, but on the other hand it is very specific, so what is needed is well defined. The UFC is not recognized as being as "green" as it could be and thus sometimes conflicts with the other codes and standards. The other guidelines and codes are standard use tools, so there isn’t any impact on government projects.

CSE: Which code/standard proves to be most challenging in such facilities?

Bost: ASHRAE 189.1.

CSE: Do you find codes affecting government and military structures to be more or less taxing than those impacting work on other building types? If so, in what ways?

Johnson: Yes, they are more limiting to design flexibility and product selection.

Bost: There is more paperwork on government and military projects.