God Bless the Building Departments

It’s the fourth of July and I was thinking about the blessings of living in the United States of America, especially related to our housing.  I have had the privilege of traveling and living in many places in this world.   I lived four years in Panama and also four years in Germany just after World War Two.  I was living in Germany when the U.S gave back control of the government to Germany in 1954.  I also have traveled in Russia, Mexico, Central and South America as well as Asia and Europe.

We take so much of our infrastructure for granted.  Electricity, water, sewer, natural gas, roads, highways, street lights, and all the other aspects that make our lives so comfortable and safe.  While Electricity is readily available almost everywhere, none of the other utilities are for most of the World.  In all the third world countries, bottled gas must be hauled up flights of stairs and connected to the kitchen stove.  Besides the sheer effort it takes, think about the danger of having a large container of propane or butane in the kitchen. Hot water comes from placing a large black plastic tank on the roof of your house using the sun to provide the energy.  Sewage is pumped raw into the local waterways and carried to the ocean, or collected by pumping into trucks from cesspools and delivered either into fields for fertilizer or dumped into the waterways.  Either way, it is a health risk.  Even in Germany in the early 50’s “honey wagons” would collect the rural communities waste and haul it to the fields.

I was staying in Acapulco waiting for a friend who was going to sail back to California with me and while visiting a large modern hotel/resort happened to walk through a traffic tunnel.  There were single strand electrical wires strung up on the underside of the ceiling with splices patched together with electrical tape.  This kind of wiring is common in Mexico, Central and South America.  It creates an obvious danger for fires, but without the building codes that we use in the U.S.A. there are no restrictions.  I cannot say definitively that there are no codes, but obviously they are not enforced.   During natural disasters like an earthquake, buildings collapse and kill hundreds because there are no uniform standards for reinforcing.  Sure, an earthquake can destroy any building, anywhere,  if the proximity to the building is correct, but the likelihood of that happening to buildings in the U.S. are much less than almost any place in the world.

It often seems a burden dealing with the building department’s regulations and permit process, but it is another example of how we are blessed to live in this great country.  Happy 241st birthday to our God blessed country.

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