Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dryver R. Huston


The premise, that building codes have become too complex, has been discussed, commented on, and documented by practicing engineers; however, prior to this research there was little scientific evidence that codes have increased in complexity over time. There are many aspects of building codes that are complicated, and this reflects a combination of the inherent complexity of building design and the dynamical processes that produce the codes. This research focuses on navigational complexity and specifically the aspects that can be quantified to demonstrate current codes are more complex than their predecessors. Navigational complexity is defined as the complexity created by document cross referencing and other unintended structural features of a code. A metric for quantifying navigational complexity has been developed based on estimates of time consumed by an engineer stepping and navigating through codes. The metric can be used to quantify navigational complexity within a given code and between different codes. Although it is unclear as to what extent navigational complexity contributes to the overall level of complexity within a code, this research affirms that navigational complexity has increased in various codes over the years and can be used to compare complexity between different codes.

The complexity of building codes has been shown to be increasing in several commonly used codes, and it may be necessary to simplify some codes. Additionally, this research postulates that it is possible for codes to become too complex and that there may be instances where the cognitive limit of navigational complexity within any given code is exceeded. However, building codes are complex for several reasons, and attempting to make codes less complex is not trivial. Without a method to reduce complexity, the task of simplification may be impenetrable. The developed metric for navigational complexity has been coupled with graphical representations to identify areas where navigational complexity can be reduced and areas where it may be beyond the cognitive limit of code users. The combination of numerical data and graphical representations may provide additional significant advantages that are not yet realized. Measuring and understanding navigational complexity within any code opens up the possibility of mitigation through reorganization and developing better navigational tools for future editions.



Number of Pages

183 p.