U.S. Seismic Codes & Provisions

The primary purpose of seismic building codes is to provide a uniform method to determine the seismic forces for any location with enough accuracy to ensure a safe and economical design. Different regions of the United States have adopted different codes to deal with the differing levels of seismic risk. Some codes seek to protect life; others seek to protect life and property, by minimizing damage sustained during an earthquake. Seismic design provisions are based on the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures. Although not a code, the NEHRP Provisions are designed to assist in code development.

To learn about resources and information specifically relating to international codes, refer to our Guide to U.S. & International Seismic Codes.

To quickly access one of the following sections, please select a link below:

International Code Council (ICC)
5203 Leesburg Pike, Suite 600 Falls Church, VA 22041
Telephone: (888) 422-7233; Fax: (703) 379-1546
The International Code Council (ICC) was established in 1994 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes. The founders of the ICC are Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), and Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. (SBCCI). Since the early part of the last century, these nonprofit organizations developed the three separate sets of model codes used throughout the United States. Although regional code development has been effective and responsive to our country's needs, the time came for a single set of codes. The nation's three model code groups responded by creating the International Code Council and by developing codes without regional limitations – the International Codes.

Other Entities Involved with Codes and Standards

These include professional organizations that create, by consensus agreement, guidelines for specific design and construction practices.

American Concrete Institute (ACI)
Mailing address: PO Box 9094, Farmington Hills, MI 48333-9094
Street address: 38800 Country Club Drive, Farmington Hills, MI 48331
Telephone: (248) 848-3700; Fax: (248) 848-3701
Founded in 1904 and headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, ACI is a technical and educational society with 16,000 members and 96 chapters in 34 countries. ACI has produced more than 400 technical documents, reports, guides, specifications, and codes for the best use of concrete; conducts more than 125 educational seminars each year; and has 13 different certification programs for concrete practitioners, as well as a scholarship program to promote careers in the industry. As ACI continues beyond a century of progress through knowledge, it has retained the same basic mission: develop, share, and disseminate the knowledge and information needed to utilize concrete to its fullest potential.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
25 West 43rd Street, 4th floor New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 642-4900; Fax: (212) 398-0023
Founded in 1918, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization (501(c)3) that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. The Institute's mission is to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity.
Applied Technology Council (ATC)
201 Redwood Shores Parkway, Suite 240 Redwood City, CA 94065
Telephone: (650) 595-1542; Fax: (650) 593-2320
The Applied Technology Council (ATC) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation established in 1973 through the efforts of the Structural Engineers Association of California. ATC's mission is to develop and promote state-of-the-art, user-friendly engineering resources and applications for use in mitigating the effects of natural and other hazards on the built environment. ATC also identifies and encourages needed research and develops consensus opinions on structural engineering issues in a nonproprietary format. ATC thereby fulfills a unique role in funded information transfer.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Federal Center Plaza 500 C St., SW Washington, DC 20472
Telephone: (202) 566-1600
The Federal Emergency Management Agency - a former independent agency that became part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March 2003 - is tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters. FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. As it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains "to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of 'A Nation Prepared'."
Portland Cement Association (PCA)
5420 Old Orchard Rd. Skokie, IL 60077-4321
Telephone: (847) 966-6200; Fax: (847) 966-8389
Where cement and concrete are concerned, so is the Portland Cement Association: in manufacturing, in raising the quality of construction, in improving our product and its uses, in contributing to a better environment. In practice, this mandate means well-rounded programs of market development, education, research, technical services, and government affairs on behalf of PCA members-cement companies in the United States and Canada.
Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI)
209 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60606
Telephone: (312) 786-0300; Fax: (312) 786-0353
The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute is a unique organization of producers, suppliers and professionals dedicated to fostering greater understanding of the design and use of precast and prestressed concrete. It also encourages and recognizes excellence in the manufacture and use of these materials. Our professional members guide the Institute's efforts in product innovation, new technology adaptation, design methods development, training and quality assurance. Since its inception in 1954, PCI has been a dynamic force in the steady growth, and the current position of this expanding industry.
Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC)
1414 K Street, Suite 260 Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: (916) 447-1198; Fax: (916) 442-0812
SEAOC's mission is to advance the structural engineering profession; to provide the public with structures of dependable performance through the application of state of the art structural engineering principles; to assist the public in obtaining professional structural engineering services; to promote natural hazard mitigation; to provide continuing education and encourage research; to provide structural engineers with the most current information and tools to improve their practice; and to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession.


Handbooks on Codes & Provisions

NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures. Provisions & Commentary
Prepared for FEMA www.fema.gov by the Building Seismic Safety Council www.bssconline.org
This multi-edition two-volume publication begun in 1985 has been updated through the years to reflect the changing needs of the architectural, engineering and construction communities. Current and previous editions are available.
International Building Code, 2006
Whittier, CA: International Code Council, 2006. Soft cover price $91.50/$73 (members)
The scope of this code covers all buildings except 3-story one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes. This comprehensive code features time-tested safety concepts, structural, and fire and life safety provisions covering means of egress, interior finish requirements, comprehensive roof provisions, seismic engineering provisions, innovative construction technology, occupancy classifications, and the latest industry standards in material design. It is founded on broad-based principles that make possible the use of new materials and new building designs.
International Building Code, 2003
Whittier, CA: International Code Council. 2002. Soft cover price: $69/$86 (members)
This 2003 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) establishes the minimum regulations for building systems using prescriptive and performance-related provisions. Significant revisions have been made to the seismic provisions of chapter 16, largely based on changes incorporated into the 2000 NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program) Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures. In addition, updated standards are referenced throughout, including the 2002 edition of Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures (ASCE 7), which provides the basis for the structural design loads. The 2003 edition is fully compatible with the entire set of international codes published by the International Code Council (ICC) and is available for adoption and use by jurisdictions internationally.
International Building Code, 2000
Falls Church, VA: International Code Council, 2000. Soft cover price: $82/$65.75 (members)
This publication addresses design and installation of building systems with requirements that emphasize performance. The IBC is coordinated with all the international codes: Uniform Building Code (UBC), BOCA National Building Code (BNBC), and the Standard Building Code (SBC). Chapter 16, Structural Design, provides design specifications for: earthquake loads; architectural, mechanical and electrical components; non-building structures; and seismically isolated structures.
Seismic Design for Buildings; Technical Manual, October 1992
Washington, DC: Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, 1992. $49 (plus $4 shipping)
This manual provides criteria and guidance for the design of structures to resist the effects of earthquakes. It includes the seismic design of buildings, as well as architectural components, mechanical and electrical equipment supports, some structures other than buildings, and utility systems. A Seismic Zone Tabulation for the United States (table 3-1) and a seismic zone map for the United States (figure 3-1) are provided.
Uniform Building Code: Structural Engineering Design Provisions (UBC)
Whittier, CA: International Conference of Building Officials, 1997. Volumes 1, 2 & 3 (Soft Cover $227/$181.50 (members)
This publication provides specifications for earthquake resistant design. Chapter 16 in volume 2 of the UBC covers standards for earthquake recording instrumentation, seismic zones for specific cities throughout the United States, and a seismic zoning map of the US.


Directory for US Codes

Directory of Building Codes & Regulations: City & State Directory
Herndon, VA.: National Conference of States on Building Codes & Standards, 2000. Price (two-volume set): $72.95
This directory is a two-volume set that provides information on codes and regulations for one and two-family dwellings, modular buildings, and commercial structures within the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and all major cities. Engineers, architects, and anyone involved in code regulations can use this publication to identify what particular building code a city or state follows. Both directories include a complete listing of the code agencies located in each city or state, with addresses, phone and Fax numbers, and contact names.

Web Sites

Building Seismic Safety Council (BSSC)
Established by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), this site develops and promotes building earthquake risk mitigation regulatory provisions for the United States. Online versions of the current and previous editions of the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures and the accompanying Commentary are available.
National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)
This multi-agency effort seeks to mitigate losses through research and implementation activities in the fields of earthquake science and engineering. Several resources have come about as a result; namely HAZUS loss estimation software, ProjectTriNet seismic monitoring, and the development of model building codes to enhance structural stability and integrity during an earthquake.
USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC)
This Web site contains links to general information about earthquakes, near real time earthquake information, and earthquake catalogs. The section on general earthquake information features United States seismicity and earthquake history that can be accessed by state. Seismicity maps for each state are included.