Society's Blueprints - A Study of the Norwegian Building Code's Modal Descriptions of a Building

Jørgen Skatland, Ole Møystad, Jardar Lohne


Building codes are descriptive texts that reflect societal consensus and convey societal agency on the built environment. These texts represent an available, empirical source on a societal component of the built environment, containing expressions of enforced social necessities embedded into buildings and spaces.

By carrying out content analysis based on two sets of parameters, we performed a re-reading of the Norwegian Planning and Building Act and the corresponding Technical Regulations. One parameter set specified topics, i.e. internal categories in the regulations. The other set assigned modal force to normative descriptions, from recommendations and advice to explicit, quantified regulations.

Visualised as a diagrammatic plot distribution, the analysis combined quantitative (number of plots per topic) and qualitative (modality of statement) perspectives. Our ambition was to investigate and express differences between topics present in the legal texts and their translation into functional demands.
The approach provided an analytical toolset that allowed us to discuss the juxtaposition of technical, aesthetic and social values. Based on their expression in building regulations, it can logically be claimed that these values directly affect the whole life cycle of buildings and other elements in the built environment.

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