Should the National Building Code be amended or repealed?

Architects and engineers in the design and build industry always refer to PD 1096 or the National Building Code of the Philippines (NBCP) as their reference when designing and constructing vertical structures.

All the technical requirements are listed in detail in the NBCP so that every technical profession is guided on specific responsibilities.

The NBCP is a guide for all real estate projects and buildings. It ensures public health, safety and the general welfare of the building users. It assures that all technical professionals adhere to these rules and regulations. It also harmonizes the scope of works of each profession, the manner of design and construction, proper use of materials, how environment-friendly the structure will be, and the resiliency of the buildings to climatic conditions.

All buildings follow certain principles of design and construction, and how technical professionals relate to the design, construction and occupancy of buildings. 

The NBCP is a law. That is why the architectural permit and structural/civil permits, as part of the ancillary permits, should be implemented by the government. They form part of the building permits.

Some ancillary permits have not yet officially been published since 2005 nor has there been legitimate actions to the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of section 301 and section 304 of the NBCP. It actually states the responsibilities and liabilities of the technical professionals, as stated in the revised Civil Code of the Philippines or R.A.1723.

What is the difference between codes and standards, and how do they affect each other? The NBCP tells the professionals what to do while the reference standards of each profession inform us how to make the system work.

For example, the NBCP informs us that the designing åarchitect or civil engineer should not be precluded from conducting inspections. The reference standards, such as the architectural code, inform the architects to faithfully comply with all the construction documents as stipulated in this Code and/or PD 1096 and its IRR.  Definitely, the provisions are specified in the basic law, who and what the right profession should do to avoid confusion.

Currently, a bill in the House of Representatives proposes to replace the NBCP. Various affected entities have presented their comments to this bill which is called the proposed Philippine Building Act of 2019. The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), being the integrated and accredited professional organization of architects, has submitted the latest of several proposals last October 2020 and was prepared to deliberate on these matters with the Technical Working Group (TWG) in the House of Representatives.

The next meeting was apparently cancelled, and instead, a substitute bill was presented and approved last Nov. 19 by the Committee on Public Works of the House of Representatives. It seems that UAP’s major proposals were not incorporated in the substitute bill.

The position of all the stakeholders should be discussed. It is the role of the TWG and the Public Works Committee to hear all those affected even if the views and opinions may vary with the general objectives.

In 2015, the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) identified the scope of works of each technical profession. This delineation of works is not reflected in the substitute bill.

The proponents of the bill wanted it in the IRR, which is subjective and prone to changes. We should respect and protect the various technical professions by identifying each scope of work clearly in the basic law.

The proposed Philippine Building Act bill seems to be very generic and open to a lot of interpretations and confusions.

Furthermore, structural engineers and structural engineering were given more emphasis and mentioned roughly 45 times in the bill. Apparently, there was no mention of architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, sanitary and electronics engineering.

If this is the case, why don’t we just amend the Structural Code of the Philippines instead of the NBCP?

The existing NBCP is worth amending because it is more specific and in tune with the present times. It identifies the professionals, delineates their scope of work, and refers to the reference standards of each profession. The complete ancillary permits should be published to pinpoint the responsibilities and liabilities of the right professionals, especially in this time of calamities.

The proper implementation of the NBCP is the key to ease doing business, address building resilient designs, and eradicate possible graft, corruption and liabilities. The building officials should not be held liable for defects most of the time. And the NBCP should be architectonic in nature because it deals with vertical structures that are habitable by man.

Banner caption: The National Building Code of the Philippines (NBCP) guides all real estate projects and buildings and ensures public health, safety and building user’s general welfare.