A building code or fire code is a law. Before model codes, each jurisdiction would have to write their own. I'm sure they sometimes peeked at what others wrote while writing theirs. Then fire service folk, insurance companies, and, later, building officials, formed organizations and worked together to develop "model codes" that would contain the common wisdom of their members. As a result, most municipalities now select a model code as the basis for their law. Soon, manufacturers, contractors, and design professionals realized that they had better become involved to protect their interests. In the case of the building codes, the building officials decided early on that they should have the final say on what was written in the model codes. Meanwhile, the NFPA chose a slightly different course which included a balanced committee with all sectors represented: enforcers, users, insurance, fire service, designers, manufacturers, contractors, testing agencies, and special experts. Most recently the three major building code organizations agreed to jointly develop and service a single set of codes, the International Building Code being the most prominent. Unfortunately, the joint venture known as the International Code Council and the NFPA have not succeeded in working together so the NFPA is developing a building code to compete with the IBC.
Regulatory Alphabet Soup
Until recently, the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCAI) published the National Building Code (NBC); the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) published the Standard Building Code (SBC); and the International Council of Building Officials (IBCO) published the Uniform Building Code (UBC). Now those organizations work together through the International Code Council (ICC) to publish "The International Family of Codes" including the International Building Code (IBC). Meanwhile, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) continues to publish the Life Safety Code (LSC) and the National Electric Code (NEC) and will soon publish NFPA 5000.