Building control: its development and application 1840-1936

Ley, Anthony James (1990). Building control: its development and application 1840-1936. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The thesis investigates the origin of building control in England and Wales (excluding London) and proceeds to trace the evolution of the system through the various Acts of Parliament and building byelaws. The growth of control is examined and the problems of administration and enforcement are discussed. The thesis tends to concentrate on the social and political issues that surrounded the growth of control, although reference is made to the technological problems of defining standards, restriction of innovation and economics.

Much of the thesis concerns the parliamentary battles between the sanitary reformers and speculative developers, the implications of which resulted in a growing intervention by Central Authority at the expense of Local Authority control, who remained responsible for administration of building control within their respective areas. The enquiries into the law and its enforcement are considered and the findings tend to show that control by government circular is no substitute for up dating the law, which was eventually achieved in the Public Health Act of 1936.

The need for building standards, defined by law, to reflect technological innovation and be capable of easy enforcement is shown together with the need to ensure that those standards are enforced uniformly by Local Authorities who appoint persons having professional competence comparable to that of designers and builders.

Byelaws founded on traditional building materials and methods were /primarily introduced to improve the construction of low cost housing. The extension of building control to industrial and public buildings and the specific ways in which byelaws were structured showed that technological innovation and development were often hindered until a more scientific approach was adopted. But despite this disadvantage the aims of the byelaws were generally met.

The thesis shows that there are considerable benefits to society in having controls on buildings in that standards defined by law can result in improved environmental and social conditions, economies of standardisation and uniformity of installation. But these benefits can be eroded by the profits of speculation and avoidance, indifferent administration or enforcement and lack of professional standards of surveyors.

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