Skip to main content

Oregon State Flag An official website of the State of Oregon »

Oregon’s Building Code Turns 50!

Welcome to the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD). We work to ensure the safety of buildings through the administration of the state of Oregon's current building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and energy codes and laws pertaining to the review and inspection of projects. Our goal is to provide excellent customer service and high-quality technical assistance.

Five rolls of blue prints laid out on top of a sixth blueprint

How we got started.

Before 1973, a variety of local codes governed the construction of buildings in Oregon. At that time, 20 of Oregon’s 36 counties and approximately 100 of its 240 cities had no building code ordinances in effect. While in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, local governments had adopted 53 different building codes. This lack of uniformity created uncertainty for contractors, real estate agents, architects, builders, and others involved in the construction process, but also posed a risk to health and safety for those who would inhabit any new construction.

Enter Senate Bill 73. Fifty years ago, Sen. Dick Groener and Reps. Robert “Bob” Elliot and Roger Martin sponsored Senate Bill 73, which Gov. Tom McCall signed to create Oregon’s unique, unified statewide building code system. The issues driving the 1973 bill included consistency of code requirements between municipalities, dispute resolution for decisions made by building inspectors, and establishment of stakeholder advisory boards to help adopt codes.

Three historical buildings in Oregon: First image is a historical building in Downtown Portland; Second image is the Benton County Courthouse in downtown Corvallis; Third image is the historical opera house in Salem

What are building codes and why do they exist?

Building codes are a set of regulations that builders and architects must follow when constructing or renovating a building. These codes exist to protect the life, health, and safety of the individuals who will inhabit the buildings and structures that are created within their communities.

Codes vary from state to state but typically include safety, structural stability, and energy efficiency requirements. Building codes are designed to protect the public from unsafe buildings and to ensure that all buildings are built to a certain standard. Oregon decided in 1973 that the best way to do so was by creating a single, uniform code for the state.

What does the Building Codes Division do?

BCD ensures safe and effective building construction while supporting a positive business climate. We do this by:

  • Adopting building codes with the advice of seven statutory boards to provide the minimum level of safety in all areas of Oregon.
  • Testing and licensing trade workers, subcontractors, and municipal building inspectors to ensure a knowledgeable and proficient workforce.
  • Enforcing laws to prevent unsafe or dangerous building conditions.
  • Monitoring business licensing and trade worker regulatory requirements.
  • Ensuring that the code is applied uniformly across the state while providing options and local flexibility when appropriate based on local conditions.
  • Establishing training and education requirements to help ensure that businesses, individuals, and building inspectors are knowledgeable about new technology, design standards, and building code requirements while achieving a consistent, uniform regulatory environment.
  • Conducting inspections and plan reviews in areas where short- or long-term supplemental services are requested to support economic needs.
  • Providing statewide safety inspection services for specialized equipment, including elevators, boilers, pressure vessels, and amusement rides.
  • Supporting local jurisdictions and businesses by leveraging technology, such as mobile applications and connected devices, to facilitate more efficient plan review and permitting activities.
  • Training new and existing inspectors to ensure technical competency and expand relevant skills.
  • Collaborating with public and private entities and institutions to allow for the use of emerging technology in alternate construction methods and materials.
  • Cooperating with other state agencies, including the Construction Contractors Board, Office of State Fire Marshal, Oregon Department of Energy, and Oregon Health Authority, on crossover issues related to construction standards and licensing.

A construction worker is working on building structure in the foreground with five other construction workers standing in the background

Join us in celebrating 50 years of Oregon’s Building Code.

Marking the 50-year anniversary of the statewide building code system reinforces the lasting legacy and forethought of the leaders who passed Senate Bill 73 and everyone who came together to make it successful in the decades to follow. Oregon can be proud of its unique and effective code system. Over the next few months, we will be telling the story of BCD’s past 50 years and our goals for the future.