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How it all started: Building a uniform state building code

Building a uniform state building code

Before 1973, less than half of Oregon’s cities and counties had building code ordinances in effect. On the other hand, in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties alone, local governments had adopted 53 different building codes. Adoption of a uniform code served to simplify the tasks of builders, real estate agents, architects, designers and the rest of the construction industry.

In 1973, Sen. Dick Groener and Reps. Robert “Bob” Elliot and Roger Martin sponsored Senate Bill 73, which Gov. Tom McCall signed into law, creating Oregon’s unique statewide building code system. The principal purpose behind the legislation was to ensure that all cities and counties adopted and enforced a uniform building code to provide certainty for developers, contractors, and homeowners. As stated by Gov. McCall, “Standardization of building codes will materially benefit the construction industry and consumers.”

The new “code” was actually the combination of a half-dozen different codes. Several were already adopted statewide, including the elevator, plumbing, and electrical codes. The new structural and mechanical codes needed trainers equipped to conduct inspections in these areas. Senate Bill 73 included a provision for training and classes to certify building inspectors in these new code areas throughout the state.

Senate Bill 73 allowed cities and counties to choose to administer their own building departments. If a city chose not to operate its own department, the county would administer the program. Where neither a city nor county program was set up, the state was obligated to provide inspection services. The code included a provision that no local government could employ building inspectors after July 1, 1977, unless they were certified by the Building Codes Division.

The Building Codes Division was established under the Department of Commerce, with an appointed State Structural Code Advisory Board. A one-year budget of $192,000 was set for administering the program with an effective date of July 1, 1974.