Built to Code vs Built to Last
In school, most folks strive to get the best grades possible. After all, it's drilled into us at an early age that better grades equal better things down the road. For many, passing to get by is just not enough. The requirements and restrictions that govern building design and construction function in much the same way.
Building codes are put in place to provide a minimum set of standards, ranging from sizes of rooms and height requirements to thermal insulation minimums and structural load maximums. The goal, of course, is the safety of building users.
However, many of the requirements laid out in building codes are intended to be a baseline, not necessarily a target. In these cases, simply meeting the requirements will certainly get you by, but is that really good enough?
Highs and Lows
Energy efficiency is just one area where the minimum code requirements are about the equivalent of a "C" grade. Sure, it’s enough to pass, but with just a little more effort, you can make some major improvements. By "upgrading" the assembly of walls and roofs in your project, you can quickly increase the performance of your building, which enables your A/C or heating system to run more efficiently, both saving you money and creating a more comfortable space.
Shapes and Sizes
Not all codes should be interpreted as baselines, however. Certain requirements, such as handrail heights, are dialed in to function optimally and intended to be met exactly as they are.
If you want your project to go beyond just passing, then working with an architect is crucial to ensure the results are on par with both your expectations and your budget.