Fire Marshals Association of Minnesota - Short History of Codes

Today’s building codes can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi, circa 2200-1800 B.C. The Code of Hammurabi provided for the death of a builder if the construction of a dwelling collapsed and caused the death of the owner.

The first building codes in the United States, established in 1625, addressed fire safety and specified materials for roof coverings. In 1630, Boston outlawed chimneys made with wood and thatch roof coverings. In the late 1770s George Washington recommended that height and area limitations be imposed on wood frame buildings in his plans for the District of Columbia. In 1788, the first known formal building code was written in the United States (in German) in Old Salem, (now Winston-Salem) North Carolina.

Larger U.S. cities began establishing building codes in the early 1800s. In 1865, New Orleans was the first city to enact a law requiring inspections of public places. The National Board of Fire Underwriters published its Recommended National Building Code in 1905. In 1915, the world’s first model code organization was established to provide a forum for exchange of ideas regarding building safety and construction regulations. In 1973, the American Institute of Architects called for one code to be used throughout the United States.