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Oregon Building Codes: Almost Everything You Need to Know


I first wrote this blog post in 2007 and it’s high time for an update:

As you might imagine, libraries get lots of questions about building codes, specifically asking if we have them. The short answer is, no.  (If the answer you get is yes and you need the information for a client, please read on.)
You see, it’s next to impossible to keep building codes up to date in a small library, in almost any library for that matter.  But we can refer you to a better source of information. Here’s some advice I published a few years ago in a bar association newsletter and it is still good information:
Do you worry that opposing counsel knows more than you do about the building codes pertinent to your case?  Is opposing counsel a former builder or construction expert?  Do you spend teeth gnashing, hair pulling hour upon hour trying to figure out which amendment to the building code is applicable to your situation, and wondering what language the blasted code is written in?
First: remind yourself that you are not alone. Ask 12 lawyers what they know about building codes, and 11 of them will say, “bupkes” (*) If the 12th one knows something, offer lunch, dinner, or your favorite weekend retreat in exchange for information.
Second: Pick up the telephone and call your city’s or county’s Land Use, Code Enforcement, or Building Services Department and ask to speak to the Code Enforcement officer who would handle your particular situation, and then ask for advice. They are happy to help, have all the codes and their current amendments, and will also have some great stories to tell. Voila!
Third: If you want to know a little about Building Codes here in Oregon:
1) Statutes and regulations originate in the State’s Building Codes Division.
2) The Builders Book website has Oregon building codes for sale.
3) And if you’re wondering why you can’t find most building codes free, online, read Veeck v. SBCCI (293 F3d 791 (2002)), a case out of the 5th Circuit that was denied certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.
To find Veeck, copy it into Google Scholar and start reading.  Then just copy it into a regular Google search, and read even more.

4) You can find some free building codes at public resource dot org.
1) Building Code (aka Structural Specialty Code): Structural, Mechanical (HVAC), Electrical (National Electrical Code and NFPA), Plumbing
2) One and Two Family Dwelling

3) Manufactured Dwelling Installation Standards

4) Uniform Fire Code (6 different fire districts in Washington County)
* Bupkes means, inter alia*, “beans” or “nothing” in Yiddish. Alternate spellings: bobkes and bubkes : courtesy of Leo Rosten, in The Joys of Yinglish, 1989.
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2 responses to “Oregon Building Codes: Almost Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Very good article about building codes. The only caution I would have is regarding asking questions at the local building department. My experience has been that the staff clam up when they know something is, or may involve litigation. Also, Code Interpretations are unique to each jurisdiction, so ask questions from the city or county where the permit was issues.

  2. This is a good article regarding building codes but one word of caution. It has been my experience that building department staff are helpful until they learn something is,or may be in litigation. Specifics may be hard to come by. Also, ask questions from the jurisdiction where the permit was initially pulled as interpretations are different from city to city. If you have a general code question, I would also be happy to help.

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