Q.: We frequently hear about the ACI Building Code and ACI specifications for concrete for buildings. Are these the same thing? Do they automatically apply to any building we might want to build?

A.: ACI 318-83, "Building Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete," commonly referred to as the "ACI Building Code," is promulgated by the American Concrete Institute (ACI). The ACI Building Code is not written to be used as a contract document for construction. The purpose of building codes is to give the minimum requirements needed for public safety, and this is the principle followed in preparing the ACI Building Code. The code sets forth proper methods of designing and constructing buildings of reinforced concrete. The building codes of large numbers of governmental bodies and agencies refer to the ACI Building Code and thereby make it a part of their own requirements, giving it legal standing for their particular jurisdictions.

The ACI has also prepared a number of standard specifications. Perhaps the best known of these is ACI 301-84, "Specifications for Structural Concrete for Buildings." These specifications do not have any binding legal authority in and of themselves, but an architect or engineer can incorporate them into project specifications by reference. In that way the ACI specifications become binding for that project. The architect or engineer supplements the ACI specifications with other individual requirements for the project. ACI 301-84 covers most of the important requirements that generally pertain to constructing reinforced concrete buildings.

Copies of these two documents are available from the American Concrete Institute, Box 19150, Detroit, Michigan 48219. The price of the 111-page ACI 318 Building Code is $31.00 ($19.50 to ACI members). The price of the 33-page ACI 301 Specifications is $21.95 ($16.25 to ACI members).