I’m an architect and builder working in coastal New England. As a design-build contracting firm, my company has the good fortune to be able to control both the designs for our projects and the process of construction. Of course, we have to comply with the same code requirements as everybody else. But with thoughtful design choices, we can sometimes turn those code requirements to our own advantage, or at least make sure they don’t create unforeseen construction problems.

Fire-related code provisions are a good example of this. In wood-framed residential work, the requirements are fairly simple, but a few code rules do apply. If you build two-family or multifamily buildings, you have to provide what are called “fire-resistance-rated assemblies” for the walls that separate adjoining units. In the International...

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