Public Resource liberates global building codes, include the Eurocode -- free the law!

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

Public.Resource.Org today released 10,062 public safety documents covering 24 countries and 6 regions, including the European Union. The release is documented in a README file and accompanied by 12 tables of supporting documentation.

Some of these standards were obtained directly from the web sites of national standards bodies, such as Ecuador and Thailand which make their standards freely available. A couple thousand were scraped from the World Trade Organization web site, which maintains a repository of mandatory notifications made by member countries. We spent $180,410.73 to obtain the rest of the documents, such as the mandatory building code of Europe, the Eurocode.

These standards were published in order to promote public education and public safety, equal justice for all, a better informed citizenry, the rule of law, world trade and world peace, this legal document is hereby made available on a noncommercial basis, as it is the right of all humans to know and speak the laws that govern them.

This law is your law. Enjoy!

Twelve Tables of Codes (Thanks, Carl!)


  1. they spent $180,000 on getting the Eurocodes? They’re freely available to students in the UK doing Civil Engineering and related subjects. 

  2. Some of these code books are incredibly expensive to produce and cost thousands of dollars per copy. That money is used to fund research to further refine and improve the code. By charging for the code book, only users of the code are paying for it. The books have always been available for free in libraries.

    If Malamud wants the codes to be free for all (which I can understand), then a new funding model needs to be established or we have to accept the fact that the astonishingly good safety record of things like boilers and pressure vessels has peaked. 

    1. If adherence to a code is mandated by law (as, in many cases, it is), then the code should be as freely available as the law itself. It is entirely iniquitous that a person should not be able to obey the law without spending large sums of money in order to discover what the law would have him do.

      1. You’re both right.  The average citizen is not required to obey these codes, or at least there’s no enforcement.  The people they apply to are primarily contractors, and maybe landlords.

        One could argue that everybody benefits, so everybody should pay – and the codes should be free to all taxpayers.  One could also argue that those who have a need to know should pay – which is the subscription model.

        One thing that doesn’t work is for the standards body to suddenly be defunded because their subscribers have decided not to pay.

        1. The average citizen is not required to obey these codes, or at least there’s no enforcement. The people they apply to are primarily contractors, and maybe landlords.

          Building codes are applied to buildings (and other structures), not to people. They also cover a lot of territory, which includes innumerable projects which many people would do without the aid of a contractor, such as installing an outdoor watering system, building a fence, etc.

          More importantly, if there’s a code violation, the building owner is the one who gets fined, forced to redo and in some cases, has property taxes increased as a penalty. The owner can sue the contractor, but that’s assuming that the contractor is still in business or has any money or insurance by the time of the lawsuit. And the contractor’s contract will almost certainly have been full of hold harmless clauses.

          1. I know.

            I also know there’s no enforcement on do-it-yourselfers, at least anywhere I’ve ever lived.  The enforcement is on professionals, which is why I said what I said.

          2. I also know there’s no enforcement on do-it-yourselfers, at least anywhere I’ve ever lived.

            Lucky you.  The code enforcers drive around residential neighborhoods here looking for violations.  If you do something without a permit, not only can they force you to undo it or fine you, they can have your property tax rate doubled for five years.

          3. I take it you’ve never sold a house that someone has tinkered on?  The whole point of the mandatory house inspection is to catch code violations like this and force them to be fixed up before you buy, otherwise you would be on the hook for the fixes when you try to sell your house. 

          4. In some places, its actually illegal for a homeowner to work on things like irrigation systems in their yards.
            I think you can make a pretty solid argument that our taxes should be raised to make the most common codes freely available. 

            Many (most?) of the codes though have absolutely no use for individuals (I’m talking about the boiler codes, elevator codes, amusement codes, etc…). For the rare individual that is building a backyard refinery, I don’t think it’s a big deal to ask them to go to the library to look at a copy of the $4000 book.

      2. So, if you want to build a backyard pressure vessel, you need a copy of the appropriate ASME BPVC. That’s about $4000. You also need a P.Eng. to sign off on your design. To turn it on, you need insurance and in some jurisdictions, an operator permit, and an inspection. The insurance company will also require ongoing periodic inspections. In other words, you have to spend large sums of money to be legal. Should all of this stuff be free as well? 

        1. All of that stuff is inherently expensive; you’re paying for what you get.  To copy a document is not inherently expensive; the cost of creating another copy of the relevant law is approximately zero.

          Artificial scarcity is a common way to inflate prices.  But there is no reason to inflate the cost of obeying the law.

          1. Sure there’s a reason – it’s a way of paying for the development and maintenance of the code books. If you would rather be taxed so that the rules for developing a pressure vessel are freely available, that’s fine. I wouldn’t argue. The Shells and Exxons of the world would love it.

  3. Everyone “uses” building codes, who does not live in a cave.  When, for instance, was the last time you didn’t fall down a dangerously steep stairway?  You didn’t even think about it, but stairs are only one of hundreds of things regulated in building codes.

    I was a contractor for some years and thought it despicable that I should have to buy a copy of the laws I had to work by.  Yes, I passed along that cost…  but only to that customer, when every successive resident of and visitor to that home actually benefits from a safer venue.

    A contractor needs answers on the fly.  It’s not very workable to have the code available in a library or permit office, if time is money.  I guess it could work for the dedicated DIYer, but it’s still more trouble than going to whateverdotcom.  I would mention that I have seen some terrible guidance from some of the DIY click farms out there — some of it downright scary.  A freely available code might keep some of that from hurting people.

    It’s no longer necessary to keep a paper copy, and a searchable pdf is far more usable.  It’s past time for the financing model to change — I’d like to see the costs for at least freely distributed electronic media covered by government.  

    Costs of testing and writing specs are already largely borne by industry, I believe … so that they don’t get sued so much.  And I think there’s some govt oversight in there too.

  4. I truly cannot believe I am reading some of this. 

    1.  Code is not enforced for individuals.

    Complete BS.  Code is applicable to ALL properties, all projects and all improvements unless specifically exempted.  There are fewer enforcement actions against private citizens because it is impractical to do so, not because “it’s okay”.  “I’m not a contractor” is not an excuse, or a defense.

    If you undertake a project, you are expected to know and comply with all applicable codes, and if you don’t it can result in fines, tax penalties, forcible removal/remediation and in some cases, even criminal action. 

    2.  It’s okay to have it in the library, but not on the internet.  

    Really?  So convenience is the measure here?  As long as you have to waste time and fuel to go look at it somewhere else, it’s okay – but not okay to just look it up on the internet?  

    Any and all laws that citizens are expected to comply with should be published as freely and as widely as possible.  Period.  Full Stop.  No exceptions.

    If we need to find a different way to fund the standards bodies that develop these standards, then we need to find a different way.  I can accept that. That is not now, never has been, and never will be an excuse for charging thousands of dollars to learn how to comply with the law.

    1. yes to all of this. Also, I see many claim that authorities generally don’t go after DIY home improvements but that is simply untrue in many parts of Europe. In The Netherlands you cannot even change the color of your facade without a permit (I am referring to modern constructions not historical, protected buildings). Even something as simple as a garden tool shed requires a permit and a subsequent inspection and these rules are enforced.

      Also, in heavily regulated rental markets (hello again, Netherlands!), sometimes, your only recourse as a tenant, to complain about lack of maintenance is to refer to health and safety regulations in building codes. That these codes remain unaccessible and unsearchable only benefits corporate interests who then manage to perpetuate a virtual monopoly on construction, maintenance and administration of properties.

  5. i am one happy engineer! what a resource. i have a hotch-potch collection of pdfs i’ve assembled over the years but this list brought tears to my eyes. thanks!!

    1. Carl only wants these used for non-commercial purposes. So, don’t try to use the elevator codes or amusement ride codes for anything but personal use.

  6. If it is part of or referenced by public laws, then it needs to be freely available to all citizens and any others affected by it, potentially affected by it or who have an interest in what it says, which is or should be everyone under the said law’s jurisdiction or effect.

    If the work in question is privately created but specifically created for the purposes of defining standards, codes or other things used by or required to be used by the public, then such things *must* be made available to the people by the lawmakers along with the text of the laws.

    If the government has to buy the rights to the privately created work or use eminent domain to make them available, then that is both a just and proper use of government powers.

    To charge those who are affected by the codes or information large sums of money to access them is anathema to a free society and is indeed a form of “secret law” which in no way belongs in any free society.  “You are charged with violating a law which we will not show you unless you pay a huge sum of money” simply does not fly.

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