Building inspectors vs. building codes

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DEAR BARRY: As a carpenter and contractor, I meet building inspectors who allow construction that is not built to code. When I asked one inspector about this, he said that he has the authority to approve work that is not to code if he finds the quality of materials and workmanship to be sufficient. Somehow, this doesn't seem right. What's the point of having a building code if inspectors can set whatever standards they wish?  --Charles DEAR CHARLES: There are long-standing debates over questions of building-code enforcement. To some, the building official is the absolute authority, empowered to determine construction standards and using the building code as a set of guidelines. To others, the building code is a set of absolute laws to be strictly enforced by the building official. The key to this argument is contained in the building code, which defines itself as a "minimum standard." If the code is a minimum standard, variances should tend toward higher level...