maximum allowable area of a building
Can any one explain why the are 5 practice exam says
it is the combination of the floor area (from zoning) and the construction type from (building codes) that limit the maximum allowable area of a building

OA,
It's a bit misleading to say that it's a "combination" of zoning and building codes. That makes it sound like you could calculate the biggest building from a zoning perspective, then calculate the biggest building from a building code perspective, and then add the two together. No way.
What is intended behind that is that you have to do both of those processes to determine the maximum allowable area of a building. With respect to the Zoning Code, you look at your site footprint and property line locations and then reference the setback requirements and/or FAR requirements outlined in the Zoning Code. Using those requirements, you can find out how big of a building the Zoning Code will allow you to build on that site, but that is only the first step.
From a building code perspective, you have to take into account the Use Group of the building, the proposed Construction Type, and whether or not the building will be sprinklered and/or have open perimeter frontage (the latter two categories allowing you SF increases per floor). When you have all that information, you then use the tables in Chapter 5 of the building code to determine how big your building can be.
Once you have the Zoning number and the Building Code number, you compare the two. The strictest will win out.
I will say that on the ARE, at least in my experience, questions that required you to do these types of calculations did not ask you to do them BOTH for a single question. As an example, you may be asking to calculate just the zoning footprint and not take into account building code. Or vice versa. You will be clearly told this on the exam. Perhaps you could be told to do both for one question  I'd be surprised because that'd be very timeconsuming, but I suppose you never know.
You should know how to do both calculations though. Hope this helps!
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