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Building Codes - How They Help Keep You Safe


BSW 1The regulation of building construction is not a recent phenomenon. It can be traced through recorded history for more than 4,000 years.  Through time, people have become increasingly aware of ways to avoid the catastrophic consequences of building-construction failures.  Check out this brief history of building codes from International Code Council.

In early America, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged the development of building regulations to provide for minimum standards that would ensure health and safety. Today, most of the United States is covered by a network of modern building regulations ranging in coverage from fire and structural safety to health, security, and conservation of energy.  

Public safety is not the only byproduct afforded by modern codes. Architects, engineers, contractors, and others in the building community can take advantage of the latest technological advances accommodated by these codes with viable savings to the consumer.

For codes to be effective, an understanding and cooperative relationship must exist between building officials and the groups they serve––homeowners, developers, urban planners and designers, and others in the construction industry. Codes must therefore be responsive to the government’s need to protect the public. They must provide due process for all affected and keep pace with rapidly-changing technology. All of these groups work together to develop and maintain codes.

BSW 2During the early 1900s, model building codes were authored by the code enforcement officials of various communities with key assistance from all segments of the building industry. Now, model codes are the central regulatory basis for the administration of programs in cities, counties, and states throughout the United States. They simply represent a collective undertaking, which shares the cost of code development and maintenance while ensuring uniformity of regulations so that the advantages of technology can be optimized.

Building safety code enforcement has historically been accomplished by defraying the costs of administration through a system of fees relating to a specific project––a system that is self-supporting. These fees are generally less than one percent of the overall cost of the building project. Public protection is thus obtained in a cost-effective manner with the entire process, from plan review to field inspection, carried out in a professional manner. The system is so well developed that the true complexity of the process is obscure to many.  It is for the purpose of creating awareness of this important public service that the International Code Council has published this information.  

For further information, contact the Bureau of Development Services at 503.823.7300 or visit

Jamaal Folsom,
BDS Emergency Manager


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