The SINTEF Building Research Design Guides consists of about 760 design guides. It is a complete source to technical solutions for buildings, and the three sub-series (Architectural Planning, Building Details and Building Management and Maintenance) present experience and solutions from both research and practice. The series is the most used planning and design tool amongst Norwegian architects and engineers and the design guides are continuously being updated to comply with the building code and experience-based knowledge.
The most influential government regulatory measure to ensure adherence to building codes and standards is the Technical Regulations under the Norwegian Planning and Building Act (PBA). The regulations have been performance-based since 1997.
The distinction between prescriptive-based codes and performance-based codes can be illustrated by the following example: Prescriptive codes declare how a wall is designed and constructed, but do not define the performance in use. Performance-based codes and guidelines, on the other hand, define the performance requirements for the wall to fulfil, but do not specify which physical solution to be chosen.
The principal motive for a transition from a prescriptive-based code to a performance-based code in Norway has been to stimulate to an increase in the quality of buildings and a reduction of the amount of building defects. The transition has been a gradual process, and the performance-based way of thinking was introduced in Norwegian building regulations as early as 1969. The former Norwegian Building Research Institute (now SINTEF Building and Infrastructure) had developed a basis for performance requirements for different building technology solutions. The institute was advocating the necessity of first defining the function of different building structures and elements, and then determine the performance requirements in accordance with the functional demands they were to fulfil. The first managing director of the institute, Øyvind Birkeland (1910-2004), won international recognition for his efforts in the development of performance-based requirements as a foundation for building codes.
The transition from a prescriptive to a performance-based code has strengthened the demand for supporting standards and design guidelines. The Building Research Design Guides comply with the performance-based requirements in the building code, and are an important reference to “pre-accepted” solutions in the technical regulations.