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2B or not IIB

October 15th, 2012

roman_numerals_2smWhat’s up with Roman Numerals in the International Building Code? Types of Construction (one through five) have been in Roman Numerals since the inception of the International Codes in 2000.  I have to ask…..Why? Is this their attempt to make the Code truly international?  Well if you have ever been to Rome, their building methods differ greatly from ours.  And although they use the metric system of weights and measure, they use regular numbers for those weights and measures.

Try composing a letter on your computer and talk about IB or IIIB construction. See what I mean, there is no top or bottom horizontal line on the I’s.  Is that 3 small “L” construction?

I know the Uniform Building Code used Roman numerals.  Did the International Conference of Building Officials negotiate away 4 hr exterior bearing walls just so they could keep the Roman Numerals?

Typical of the computer age, I Googled Roman Numerals to see what I could find on the subject. On the Math Forum site I found The Dr. Math Archives which stated three reasons why we use Roman Numerals:

roman soldier

  • to make writing look fancy (on clocks and official documents),
  • to make writing look old, and
  • to avoid confusion with ordinary numbers (in outlines and the introductions of books.)

Maybe they want you to think Types of Construction dates back to Hammurabi.  It could be they want it to look fancy. (I know I always get excited when talking about Types of Construction.)

My personal opinion is they should have followed through and made the code sections in Roman.  1008.1.8.6 Delayed Egress locks would be MVIII.I.VII.VI (I think).  This could be a new stimulus plan for the printing industry.

We do see Roman Numerals in some common things in America.  The Super Bowl for instance uses Roman Numerals.  I must say though I’m not a sports follower.  I can’t seem to make sense of paying a bunch of guys 100 times what a schoolteacher makes to run around a field with a ball.  Movies always use Roman Numerals at the beginning to show what year the movie was made, but I’m sure most of us need to check a movie guide to actually figure out what year they were made.

Finally, like the disclaimer I use for my code seminars, I use Arabic numbers when describing types of construction.  And I’m not even an Arab.

Editors Note:  When this article was transfered from Microsoft Word to the Web Page, the horizontal tops and bottoms were added to the I’s automatically.

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