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1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 28 (16)

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition
1947-48 Theatre Catalog
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 28
Page 28

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 28

The Need for Modernizing Building Laws

The Nature of the Problem and Its Solution Require the Objective, Aggressive Approach

There is general agreement among architects, engineers, builders, and others in the building construction industry that building laws should be modernized.* They are thwarted by unwieldy and costly administrative procedures established by law, rigidities that prevent the use of new buiding materials and methods of construction, requirements that vary from one community to another, and specifications that call for the use of more material than is needed in modern practice.

The public, too, realizes the need for corrective action. Indignation over the loss of life in the recent hotel fires brought about a demand for greater safety in buildings culminating in the Presidents Conference on Fire Prevention.

The long accumulating shortage of housing, the backlog of industrial and commercial construction, and the desire for full employment are also factors in the current interest in improvement in building laws.

NATURE OF THE PROBLEM Broadly speaking, progress in the field tThis discussion has been reprinted

from the June, 1947, issue of Domestic Commerce.

CALVnV H. Yum,

Conslructiou Division 0/ the Ollice of Dunwxlic Commerce, United States Department a] Commerce

of building law has been characterized by uncoordinated and often conflicting action and by a failure to take into account the full economic and social implications of the problem. Those familiar with the nature of the building construction industry will appreciate the reasons for this. While much has been done, lasting results will depend largely on the ability to analyze in detail the nature of the problem and to organize existing resources in a program of action.

Purpose. Scope of Building Law

The substance of building laws is not always consistent with their stated purpose and scope. For example, since the safeguarding of human life is the primary purpose of a building law, it may not be in the public interest to include provisions for the protection of investments in buildings and their contents or for promoting particular products.

The scope, as stated, in many laws is not covered by the detailed provisions. For example, trailers and boats used for housing or otherwise are sometimes

THE NEED tor modernizing building laws is perhaps best illustrated in the legal history of Quonsets when employed as the skeleton tor theatre auditoriums. Although many Quonset theatres have been built-and more are on the way-there is no unanimity of opinion on the admismbllity under the codes. Nor can always the size of the community be taken as the criterion of possible approval.

included in the scope of a law but are not covered specifically.

Lack of precise definitions and loose draftsmanship are misleading. They increase the burden on the building ofhcial and confuse those affected by the law.

Application to Existing Buildings

As the need for a greater degree of safety in buildings is demonstrated through disaster, building laws are amended to require the installation of new safety measures. Generally, however, if the installation of these measures in existing buildings involves considerable expense, the law is not made retroactive. Thus, it has become common practice to permit the use of old buildings in which the safety standards are less adequate than those required for new buildings. Some municipalities have taken aggressive action in the matter. Their experience may provide the basis for obtaining greater safety in existing buildings elsewhere.

Multiplicity of Laws

In any municipality, there may be a plumbing law, electrical law, elevator law, boiler law, fire-prevention law, and possibly a housing law, in addition to the fibuilding law." All of these, as well as parts of the health code, set forth requirements for construction, occupancy, maintenance, and demolition of buildings. State labor laws may also regulate to some extent the construction and maintenance of buildings in which persons are employed. All of these laws may be administered by different agencies of state and local government.

A comprehensive program for the modernization of building law must include careful review of the existing situation, with regard to the social and economic elements involved, and consideration of how to combine, administratively and otherwise, the many laws that regulate buildings. Until such twofold action is taken, we shall continue to have building regulations made up of uncoordinated, often over-lapping and sometimes conflicting laws, ordinances, and regulations which confuse the builder and frustrate the administrator.

Referencing and Publication

Local acceptance of standards for materials and workmanship and of standard test procedures developed by private and public agencies results in the elimination of substandard materials and practices and the utilization of scientific research not otherwise available. It also reduces the cost of printing the local law. Instead of incorporating the entire text of the desired standard in the law, it can be, state legislation permitting, referenced by title, (late and originating agency.

Methods for incorporating these standards into building law by reference vary

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 28