Commentary on Accepted Engineering Practice

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineSeptember 19, 2018. Updated August 20, 2019.
by SBCA Staff with contributions from SBCA Professional Engineers and links to code language from UpCodes


The concept of “accepted engineering practice” is a term often used in the building code where engineering or scientific knowledge is needed to make professional engineering evaluations. The reason this is important is that innovation can only be performed by design professionals willing to provide creative engineered solutions, with the expectation that they will sign and seal their work. Without engineering, buildings would only be built using generic products that have material properties and design methods specified by the building code. Consider all the limitations this would place on high performance and affordable built construction.

Ingenuity is performed via professional engineering (PE), which manages mechanics of materials, fire performance, loads, load paths, resistance to loads, and so forth. A good example of the position that the building code takes, with respect to the work of PEs, is through the approval of signed and sealed accepted engineering practice. This concept is embedded in the fabric of building code language as seen by Graphic 1 and Graphic 2.

Section 1706 Design Strengths of Materials

1706.1 Conformance to Standards

The design strengths and permissible stresses of any structural material that are identified by a manufacturer's designation as to manufacture and grade by mill tests, or the strength and stress grade is otherwise confirmed to the satisfaction of the building official, shall conform to the specifications and methods of design of accepted engineering practice or the approved rules in the absence of applicable standards.

Graphic 1

1709.5 Exterior Window and Door Assemblies

The design pressure rating of exterior windows and doors in buildings shall be determined in accordance with Section 1709.5.1 or 1709.5.2. For the purposes of this section, the required design pressure shall be determined using the allowable stress design load combinations of Section 1605.3

Exception: Structural wind load design pressures for window units smaller than the size tested in accordance with Section 1709.5.1 or 1709.5.2 shall be permitted to be higher than the design value of the tested unit provided such higher pressures are determined by accepted engineering analysis. All components of the small unit shall be the same as the tested unit. Where such calculated design pressures are used, they shall be validated by an additional test of the window unit having the highest allowable design pressure.

Graphic 2

In addition, the building code, as adopted into law, says that a PE is an approved source (please review graphic 3).

[A] APPROVED SOURCEAn independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.

Graphic 3

1703.4.2 Research Reports

Supporting data, where necessary to assist in the approval of products, materials or assemblies not specifically provided for in this code, shall consist of valid research reports from approved sources.

Graphic 4

[A] REGISTERED DESIGN PROFESSIONAL. An individual who is registered or licensed to practice their respective design profession as defined by the statutory requirements of the professional registration laws of the state or jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.

Pulling these concepts together, “accepted engineering practice” leads to science based technical evaluation documents or research reports (please review graphic 4) prepared by an approved source, which is a person or company that is “competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles”. In other words, a registered design professional as defined in the code.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles: