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An introduction and guide to standards and codes: what they are, where they come from, and how to get them.

Welcome to the Standards Subject Guide

Standards and codes are needed to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. They establish rules or measures (either minimum or optimum) for a quality or level of performance. Standards are developed by national or international trade associations, groups of industries or government agencies and used locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally. Standards impact nearly every aspect of our lives - the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, even the Canadian flag.

Best place to start:  to identify current standards, search the Standards Databases list (above) which will show the current version of most standards. Note that most standards are not listed in the Libraries Search. Library staff will be happy to help you locate standards. Please ask contact Marie Speare by phone or email.

If the Engineering Library does not own a standard or code needed by members of the university community, we can see if we can find another library that will lend it. Otherwise, you may have to purchase a copy.

Upon publication, the acronym of the publishing organization together with a number and the current year identifies a given title e.g. CSA Z462-08. Acronyms of organizations involved in writing standards, e.g. CSA, CGSB, IEEE, API or UL, are listed at NSSN: Search Engine for National Standards.

Standards have been called "the language of engineering" since engineers must deal with them continually in their working lives.

Codes and Regulations:

When standards are adopted by a governing body, they become part of the regulatory code of that body and are no longer voluntary and must be adhered to by the affected parties. Examples are the National Building Code of Canada and the Canadian Electrical Code.

Codes may be building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire, and maintenance codes such as: IBC, IEBC, IEC; IECC; IFC; IMC; IPC; IRC; UBC; BOCA; SBC; ADA; ANSI; and NFPA. The library has some, but not all codes, but the ones that we can be found using the Library Search option. provides a thorough explanation of the difference between standards and regulations.