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Overview of the Building Code

The Building Code of the Philippines is a relatively voluminous law comprising about 71 pages if placed in a Microsoft Word document with a 12 font. While the architect or engineer you hired for your construction should be well versed with the code, it wouldn’t hurt to know a bit about it yourself. This will come in handy for control freaks who want to double check on the work of hired personnel. You may want to see how your own home fairs or that of an annoying neighbor encroaching into your territory This is also important in assessing existing structures you are considering for possible investments, especially buildings for apartments, commercial spaces, and even condominiums. Many of the provisions are actually quite technical. Nonetheless, some are quite straightforward, understandable, and useful for a layman.


The declaration of policy gives us an idea of what the document is all about. It states that the act incorporates the “policy of the State to safeguard life, health, property, and public welfare, consistent with the principles of environmental management and control; and to this end, make it the purpose of this Code to provide for all buildings and structured, a framework of minimum standards and requirements by guiding, regulating, and controlling their location, siting, design, quality of materials, construction, use, occupancy, and maintenance, including their environment, utilities, fixtures, equipment, and mechanical electrical, and other systems and installations.”

It is meant to be an all encompassing code that covers all types of constructions, including residential dwellings, residential hotels and apartments, those for purposes of education and recreation, institutional, business and mercantile, industrial, and storage, including those of hazardous substances.  Some portions specify details about certain concerns. For example, there is a portion on cinemas and lengthy provisions on skylights (openings in the roof for light to come in, sometimes replacing windows when needed).

The building code also mandates the requirement of a permit to build buildings or homes to be able to check whether any construction meets the set minimum standards.

Note, however, that the building code was actually enacted in 1972. Since then, many developments in terms of technology, needs, and capacities have changed or improved. Even perhaps people’s psychological thresholds of safety may have also evolved since then, despite the Filipino’s continuing lack of safety consciousness.  With certain phenomenon like the rise of medium to high rise condos, people wonder if the code would require some revisiting by construction and legal experts. In the meantime, many of its provisions remain relevant even for tall buildings.

Space and Size

The code also provides for maximum requirements for one and two storey structures. It specifically states that a dwelling should generally occupy not more than 90 per cent of a corner lot and 80 per cent of an inside lot and shall be at least 2.00 meters (6 feet, inches) from the property line.

Get your tape measures and check your houses.  The code further specifies that habitable rooms, bathrooms, toilet rooms and utility rooms should have a height of not less than 2.40 meters or 8 feet. Rooms should not be smaller than six square meters (65 square feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 2.00 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) if it is meant to be occupied by a person.  The kitchen should not be less than three square meters (32 feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 1.50 meters (5 feet). Bathrooms, on the other hand, should not be smaller than 1.20 square meters (13 square feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 90 centimeters (3 feet). The code also specifies window size to be at least 1/10th of the floor area of the room and requiring at least one window for every room where no air conditioning or a mechanical ventilation system is provided and should open directly to a court, yard, public way or alley, or water course

Habitable rooms are expected to have at least 14.00 cubic meters (494 cubic feet) of air space per adult person and 7.00 cubic meters (247 cubic feet) of air space per child under 10 years of age.

Strengths and capacities of floors are also specified, so with the roofs on a kilograms per square meter basis.  Even stairs are required to be 75 centimeters (30 inches) wide, with a rise of 20 centimeters (8 inches) and a run of 23 centimeters (9 inches).  There should also be at least one electrical outlet per 6.00 meters (20 feet) of wall measured along the floor and one light outlet for every room

The code further states that “for buildings of more than one story, the minimum ceiling height of the first story shall be 2.70 meters (9 feet) and 2.40 meters (8 feet) for the second storey and succeeding stories. Garages shall have an unobstructed headroom clearance of not less than 2.10 meters (7 feet) above the finished floor.

“A Mezzanine floor is a partial, intermediate floor in any story or room of a building having an area not more than one-half of the area of the room or space in which it is constructed. A mezzanine floor shall be constructed with a clear ceiling height of not less than 1.90 meters (6 feet, 4 inches) above and below.”

Some Provisions  on Safety

Fire zones are areas within which only certain types of buildings are permitted to be constructed based on their use, occupancy, type of construction, and resistance to fire. Any building within a certain fire zone is required to meet the standards set for the said zone.

Here is a little known and practiced provision. Any room having an occupant load of more than 50 persons used for classroom, assembly, or similar purpose, shall have the capacity of the room posted in a conspicuous place near the main exit from the room.

Naturally, all buildings are required to have at least one exit. But those that are to be occupied by at least 10 people are to have not less than two exits. And every storey or portion of a building, having an occupant load of 500 to 999 shall have not less than three exits. Those with a load above 1,000 shall have four exits. There are also provisions as to the width of the exits employing a certain formula in order to compute, as well as, the placements of the exits and their distances from each other.  Especially for crowded places, like discos and bars, exit swing doors are required to open towards the direction of “exit travel” keeping in mind emergency situations. We all know what happened to a popular disco in Manila which didn’t follow this simple provision a decade ago.

Corridors and exterior exit balconies shall be not less in which 1.12 meters (3 feet, 8 inches).  These are to be unobstructed except for handrails and doors which are also required to be occupy only a certain space even when open. Stairways, too, have minimum sizes based on load capacities of the floor.  Smoke proof enclosures consisting of a continuous stairway are required of five storey buildings and above. Stairs of these smoke proof enclosures are to be of incombustible construction. Exit signs should be conspicuously placed and illuminated using a separate circuit or source of power.

Buildings are supposed to have access to a public space, yard, or street on not less than one side of it. Required yards should be permanently maintained. Eaves or roof spaces over required windows should not be less than 75 centimeters (30 inches) from the side and rear property lines. No part of any building structure or any of its appendages shall project beyond the property line of the building site, except in very special cases provided in the Code, such as, footings (part of the basic structure of a construction) located at least 2.40 meters (8 feet) below the ground. These may project not more than 30 centimeters (12 inches) beyond the property line.


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