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Optimizing Government Project

Voluntary codes and standards touch our lives every day. Established by non-governmental standard-setting organizations, voluntary codes and standards apply to the construction of new buildings, the safety of food processing, and the design of computer equipment, among many other products and services. 

As with legal rules, voluntary standards instruct businesses on how to design their products and carry out their services. And as with legal codes, voluntary codes assemble together packages of requirements that apply to larger systems, such as buildings. Prominent examples of voluntary codes include the ICC’s Building Code and the NFPA’s Fire Code. Codes such as these may include among their many provisions the standards developed separately by other organizations.

Voluntary codes and standards can also be incorporated directly into binding law by legislative bodies and administrative agencies.

Despite the prevalence of voluntary codes and standards in today’s business environment, and despite their key implications for practicing lawyers and policy decision-makers, few students in law and public policy programs learn about voluntary codes and standards.  Until now, few teaching materials about voluntary codes and standards have been available for law faculty.

With support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Penn Program on Regulation has developed course modules and multi-media case studies which use examples from the world of voluntary codes and standards to teach broader legal concepts.

The case studies feature real-life narratives and video interviews with key participants and experts designed to engage students and stimulate lively discussion. The materials are intended to be integrated into existing law school courses with the aid of teaching materials that can be used by instructors without any prior background in working with voluntary codes and standards.