Brief Notes on Building Regulation, Working on a Farm, Improvised Insulation, and Planting Avocado Pits

A contributing writer responds to comments from readers about building regulation, experiencing farm life, improvised Styrofoam insulation, and sprouting and planting avocado pits.

| May/June 1973

  • 021-019-01
    Building codes prevent you from building a house any old way you want to, but when planting avocados you just have to get the pit to sprout.

  • 021-019-01

I noticed that in his letter to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Chuck Boothby raised the question of "intrusions" by building inspectors but didn't seem to realize why the regulations he resents were put into effect originally.

Back during the early settlement of the East and the western pioneer days, there were no—or very few—building codes. One reason was that every man, with rare exceptions, had a good grasp of all kinds of building, drainage, etc. And, since there was no true plumbing and no electricity, more specialized knowledge wasn't necessary. Moreover—except in towns and cities—homes were so far apart and population so small that it didn't seem possible that we could ever pollute our environment or endanger our fellow man.

However, as population density increased and as more sophisticated forms of sanitation, lighting, and heating were invented and perfected, the "common" man lost touch with the knowledge he needed to build his own home, and many mistakes were made which began to create social disturbances such as fires, bad water, building collapses, etc. Then laws were made to insure against such occurrences, and these have become our building codes.

Every state has some building regulations, which are usually confined to sanitation, electrical, and plumbing requirements. Most towns, too, have codes, which must meet and can exceed the state's enactments. However, some communities have none at all.

To be sure that you're in the right when you build, contact your town hall and find out what rules are in force. Unfortunately, although many of the smaller municipalities are lax about close adherence to the code, some are very strict and failure to comply can mean tearing everything down or paying a fine which may amount to $10,000 for endangering the public.

These restrictions, which seem so unfair to some, are there for everyone's protection. You may think it's ridiculous not to be able to build your own dry well and septic tank system on an isolated farm, but the overflow from such an installation could endanger you and possibly feed into the water supply for a faraway town. Most of the time this might not pose much of a problem, but there are many bacterial and viral disease organisms which can't be filtered out by the soil and which could cause a massive epidemic if they weren't watched closely.


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