Some of the earliest building codes date to the Code of Hammurabi in 1760 BC as part of a general writing down of laws that would govern the public. The fact that the public could not read these laws did not exempt them from them (kind of the way it is now). According to Wikipedia, Law #229 (way down on the list from all the good ones about Adultery, Stealing and Murder) stated: "If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death." (I think we have adjusted that penalty somewhat.) If you look at the following picture, one can clearly see Law #229 and what it says----it probably looked much the same to the average Babylonian 3,768 years ago.
So why did we start instituting these Codes of conduct? People living together, in close proximity, created some "regulatory" problems, so eventually we started codifying these regulations (and creating sewer systems). The denser the population---the greater the need for regulation.
Large cities were the first places these codes started showing up. All it takes is a cow kicking over a lantern in a Chicago barn to force the city government to create a huge bureaucracy and book of rules to prevent it from happening again. While we may not like having to deal with building codes it is hard to get away from the fact that they do save lives.
What exactly is a life worth anyway? Take for example one of the newest electrical code changes that will require (if not already instituted in your jurisdiction) AFCI circuit breakers on all 120 volt circuits in the home. Up to now they have only been required on bedroom circuits, and we are told they save lives because bedrooms are a common place where fires start. How many lives per year would have to be saved by these devices to justify the extra cost? Is there a question here? I can not see any "political" entity daring to specify a number.
While this discussion could take up a lot of blog space, it is actually a different idea I have been mulling over lately that I want to discuss---codification of "Social Responsibility." Isn't that what "going green" is really all about? What we are starting to see is that the planet is getting smaller and smaller and we literally can not pee upstream of someone else anymore. Requiring a certain amount of insulation in the home saves money but it is also the socially responsible thing to do. But this is fodder for even more blogs and still is not getting quite at what this blog is about.
As an inspector I routinely see where good materials are expended for the sake of short term financial gain. The example I will use here (and there are many others) is related to "curb appeal." THE HOUSE LOOKS "AWEFUL" FROM THE STREET, and it is decided, that all that is needed is a fresh coat of paint to get the buyers to stop and take a look.
So the painter is hired to paint the house. (Forget for a moment that the house needs to be re-sided or at the very least needs significant repairs and/or preparatory work prior to painting). Mr. Painter goes down to the local paint store and buys 15 gallons of "Cheapo Newfromthestreet" brand paint at a cost of $450.00 and sprays the house in a few hours----man it looks GREAT!-----from the street . In this picture you can see where the siding (and even some of the sheathing) is missing, and the area has simply been painted over.
So now---to my real question. Is it socially responsible to expend finite natural resources in this manor for the short term financial gain? Someone, is going to have to fix the siding (and throw away all of this new paint). While I don't think more laws are the answer, we surely need some sort of Social PR plan to educate and encourage people to make better decisions for the planet, each other and (ultimately) ourselves.
OK, I am getting off my soap box now.
PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed) all pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board