Envelope #25: How do you keep track of IBC/CBC “Referenced Standards”?

Happy Thursday! This is Back of the Envelope -- where I share bite-sized SE mini-lessons to help you (and myself) stay sharp.

Today, I am going to talk about the IBC/CBC “Referenced Standards” because, embarrassingly, I consistently forget which version of NDS/ACI/AISI/ASCE 7 etc. that I should be using 😅…

Writing this helps me remember (kind of); hopefully, it helps you too!

(Estimated reading time = 2 minutes & 25 seconds)

Code Cycles

The International Building Code (IBC) comes out every 3 years. California then adopts it the year after, and then it becomes effective the following year (e.g., 2021 IBC is adopted by 2022 CBC, which becomes effective on 2023, January 1st).

The tricky part is that all the referenced standards have separate cycles that don’t coincide with the IBC cycle. As a result, sometimes the referenced standards change, and sometimes they don’t.

Keeping track of which standards to use becomes tricky when you have various projects under different code years.

Referenced Standards

If you are relatively new to the field, you might wonder – “how do I figure out which referenced standards to use?”

Answer: This is listed under Chapter 35 of the IBC/CBC.

You just have to find the standards that you are looking for, and you’ll see which version is being referenced (e.g., at the link above, do a search and look for “ASCE/SEI 7”; you’ll see that the version being referenced is “ASCE 7-16 with Supplements 1, 2, and 3.”)

A little bit tedious to do that search each time you forget though…

Well, thanks to SK Ghosh, there is a handy table that lists all of them for the 2018 IBC and 2021 CBC.

I created a slightly modified version in Excel for easier printing -- you can download it here.

I recommend printing it out and putting it somewhere prominent.

And you won’t have to wonder which standards to use ever again! (at least for the next 3 years)

Free Codes

By the way, in case you don’t already know, some of these standards can be downloaded or viewed online for free.

It doesn’t beat having hard copies, but they are helpful when you don’t have access to your books/pdfs and are in a pinch to look up something quick.

Here are the links to them:


(Free thanks to UpCodes’s work on “keeping the law free” -- read more here if interested: https://up.codes/free-law)


(Again – thanks to UpCode!)

Structural Steel

(Thanks AISC!)


(Thanks American Wood Council!)

Cold-Formed Steel

Link to all AISI (need to register for a free account)

(Thanks AISI!)

ASCE 7/Aluminum/Masonry

Unfortunately, there is no (legal) free version for these that I am aware of. ASCE 7 supplements and errata are here though (link).

That’s all for the Referenced Standards – hopefully it was helpful.

By the way, I plan to include a dad joke at the end of each email so that you’ll at least get a quick chuckle regardless of whether you learned anything 😉.

For today’s Envelope, I meant to include a really good boomerang joke I read the other day, but I forgot how the joke goes... it’s okay though, I am sure it’ll come back to me.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!


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I don’t know why this popped into my head…

I just remembered that I learned about Chapter 35 from Greg Orozco at John A Martin & Associates over 15 years ago. If you know Greg, please tell him I said thanks!

(Or I guess I could call/text him: “Hey Greg! Haven’t talked to you in years, but do you remember teaching me about Referenced Standards over 15 years ago? Thanks for that – you rock! Bye.”)

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