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ICC Safe: Guide To The International Code Council!

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The ICC (International Code Council) is a member association made up of code enforcement officials and various construction industry-related professionals.

The ICC is dedicated to developing industry-standard codes that promote the development of safe, sustainable, and affordable structures.

These standards, have been adopted throughout much of the US and global marketplace. Codes are updated every 3 years.

History of the ICC

The International Code Council began in 1994, following a decision made by the three largest code associations at the time to combine their efforts and develop a standard national building code.

The member groups were made up of code enforcement officials at the county, state and municipal level as well as architects, contractors, fire officials, engineers, and manufacturers.

Before the ICC, building codes had existed only at the regional level. Following 3 years of research and development by the founding member organizations, the council released its first code series in 1997.

The codes have gone on to be adopted by countries throughout the world and now is made up of 350 chapters with over 64,000 active members.

What are Building Codes? What is an ICC Code?

Building Codes are sets of rules and standards for how structures are to be built. Builders must obtain permits and conform to construction standards that are enforced at the local level.

The practice of standardizing building construction has existed as early as 1772 B.C. ICC codes promote public health and safety and are practiced by construction-related professionals including contractors, architects, real estate developers, interior designers, and engineers.

List of ICC Certifications

In the United States, the nationally adopted code for Residential construction is the IRC (International Residential Code) and IBC (International Building Code) for commercial buildings.

Within these two categories, some codes apply specifically to trades and zoning including:

  • Fire
  • Plumbing
  • Mechanical
  • Energy Conservation
  • Performance
  • Wild land Urban Interface
  • Fuel and Gas
  • Property Maintenance
  • Existing Building
  • Private Sewage Disposal
  • Zoning
  • Green Construction
  • Swimming Pool and Spa
  • Welding
  • HVAC

Building codes are adopted by local municipalities that hire building inspectors to periodically check construction projects to ensure that contractors are executing jobs following standards.

If a construction project fails to meet building code standards, it can be halted or shut down.

Contractors and tradesman following these codes adhere to what the International Code Council refer to as building “ICC Safe.”

What is an ICC Certification?

a construction professional looking out into a job site. the ICC offers various certifications

The International Code Council offers certification courses for building inspectors in the following areas:

  • Commercial Building Inspector
  • Residential Building Inspector
  • Commercial and Residential Plumbing Inspector
  • Plans Examiner
  • Fire Inspector
  • Accessibility Inspector
  • Energy Inspector

There are several other areas of certification which also include environmentally friendly or Green Construction as well as trade-specific inspection.

Virtually all cities, counties, and municipalities that hire building inspectors require certification.

Demand for Building Inspectors

In 2018, The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development began requiring lenders offering (Federal Housing Authority) FHA Loans to use ICC Certified inspectors.

This will in effect create a massive demand in the next 10 years for Inspectors.

Certification is a great career path for experienced tradesmen, architects, engineers, and general contractors.

In my experience, many of the people I have helped to become inspectors spent years working as superintendents, foremen or ran their own businesses as general contractors.

A lot of them reached a point in their career where they were tired of swinging a hammer or dealing with the ups and downs of running a business.

State and local governments offer high salaries and excellent benefits to building code inspectors.

How do I become an ICC Inspector?

  • Decide which Exam you will need to take (National Certification, UST-AST Certification, State-Specific Certification) – This largely depends on the specific requirements of building inspectors in your state or local municipality.
  • You will want to check with the local government or review the job requirements of the employer to make sure that you are taking the correct certification course
  • Search for your exam – Find out how many questions, passing score required for your specific area of certification
  • Study – Purchase Code and Reference books or take an approved course with a private learning center
  • Pass Exam – Take the exam in an onsite location or online

Certification Training

a person holding a white pencil above an exam

ICC Certification training is exam prep focused. Most ICC classes that you will see available on the market, merely list the codes you are expected to know and are code review focused.

Exams are open book 

Learning building codes is typically something that is some on the job from years of experience or through a specialized technical trade course

There are ICC classes that can teach you how to prepare for the exam, but it is essential that you treat them as such. Classes usually provide you with sample questions and strategies to pass. 

If you do not have any experience in the construction industry, feel free to check out my article: Apprentice vs. Journeymanfor a detailed look at the career paths within the construction industry

What do you learn? ICC Testing and Requirements

Testing is administered by the Exam Development Committee, which is the official ICC testing department.

The number of questions, as well as a passing score, vary depending on the type of exam you will be taking.

There is a database of questions that the council draws from, so if you fail once you probably will be taking a completely different exam when you go for a retake. The test is open book.

There are 4 categories of examinations offered by the ICC:

  • National Certification
  • UST-AST Certification
  • State Certification
  • Contractor Trade


Examinations are open to anyone regardless of pre-requisite experience.

It is assumed that anyone applying to become a building inspector already has the education, technical knowledge, and experience. 

It is a code examination, so it's highly unlikely anyone with no knowledge of building codes would be able to pass.

Length, Exam format, Costs and Re-takes

This depends on which area of certification you are testing for. 

National Certification, UST-AST-Certification, State Certification or Contractor Trade.

  • For Certification Exams, your passing score is 75 out of 100. The ICC uses ascaled score.  
  • You will be given 6 attempts within 6 months.
  • For Contractor Trade Exams, typically a score of 70% is required to pass
  • Certification exams are $100 and $60 per re-take


Getting ICC Certified is a great career move for someone with construction building code knowledge looking for job security and benefits.

There will be an increased demand for building inspectors.

If you are looking for more information on study resources or courses in your area, click here.