Context 172 - June 2022

14 C O N T E X T 1 7 2 : J U N E 2 0 2 2 ROBERT HUXFORD A brief history of building regulations and control The story of building regulation and control is one of belated action in response to crisis, and of continuing tension between the protection of the public and private profit. Structural soundness, the prevention of fires and the promotion of public health are the main and long-standing objectives of ‘building control’. In the code of Hammurabi, one of the world’s earliest legal codes (dating to Babylon around 3,000 years ago), Edict 229 provides that ‘If a builder build a house for a man and do not make its construction firm, and the house which he has built collapse and cause the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death’. One could call that a sort of ‘performance specification’; that is, houses shall be built in such a manner that they do not fall down, as opposed to an ‘input specification’ setting the exact requirements for the method, materials and dimensions.The other distinction to make is between building regulations (the law relating to buildings) and building control (the administration and implementation of that law). Building regulation and control are tied to the development of central and local government, and of the representation of the people. It is often the poorest and least powerful in society who stand to gain the most from a system of building control, and are most likely to be the victims of poor and uncontrolled building. At Nos 55 and 54 Britton Street (formerly Red Lion Street) are terraced houses, built 1720–24. On the right (No 54) the ground and first floors reflect the Rebuilding of London Act 1666. On the left (No 55) the facade, renewed in 1810, reflects the London Building Act 1774: window frames and door frames to be set in reveals, and recessed by at least four inches from the front of the building. Party walls are carried above the roof.