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The Earliest Known Building Codes

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Babylonian King Hammurabi

The Earliest Known Building Codes

Hammurabi's Code of Laws

Babylonian King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) published the first recorded document that can be considered a building code book almost 4,000 years ago. Faulty building practices were no more appreciated then than they are now. Hammurabi's Code of Laws were all-inclusive; a few of them regulated the building contractors of the time. Of the 282 codes, numbers 228 through 233 are those which represent the rules for construction.

Fortunately, it's highly unlikely any of today's building code books call for penalties as harsh as did that first one. Back then, if someone constructed a building for someone else and that building collapsed and killed the homeowner, the builder would also be killed in retribution. If a son or a slave was killed, the builder made retribution in kind.

228. If a builder has built a house for a man, and finished it, he shall pay him a fee of two shekels of silver, for each SAR built on.

229. If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not made his work sound, and the house he built has fallen, and caused the death of it's owner, that builder shall be put to death.

230. If it is the owner's son that is killed, the builder's son shall be put to death.

231. If it is the slave of the owner that is killed, the builder shall give slave for slave to the owner of the house.

232. If he has caused the loss of goods, he shall render back whatever he has destroyed. Moreover, because he did not make sound the house he built, and it fell, at his own cost he shall rebuild the house that fell.

233. If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not keyed his work, and the wall has fallen, that builder shall make that wall firm at his own expense.

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