Governance for Urban Sustainability and Resilience

Governance for Urban Sustainability and Resilience

Responding to Climate Change and the Relevance of the Built Environment

Jeroen van der Heijden

Cities, and the built environment more broadly, are key in the global response to climate change. This groundbreaking book seeks to understand what governance tools are best suited for achieving cities that are less harmful to the natural environment, are less dependent on finite resources, and can better withstand human-made hazards and climate risks.

Chapter 2: Direct regulatory interventions

Jeroen van der Heijden

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental governance and regulation, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


Buildings are likely to have been among the first regulated entities in the world. In ancient Babylonia, King Hammurabi (c. 1750 BC) had a clear vision on the construction of buildings. His set of 284 laws, known as the Code Hammurabi, is regarded as one of the oldest preserved sets of direct regulatory interventions in the world. The code sets, among others, rules regarding a builder’s duties and responsibilities towards his client: ‘If a builder builds a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death’ (King, 2004, p. 21). It was not until the migration of population into cities that city builders started to think seriously about housing. Cities, such as Amsterdam in the Netherlands and London in the United Kingdom, were evolving rapidly as their economic progress attracted many prospective citizens. In those days, houses in cities were often built in a similar way as houses in the countryside, with timber and straw. Yet, such houses in great numbers caused a major fire risk, that is, a human-made hazard to which such cities were unlikely to be resilient. And indeed, devastating fires such as the 1452 Amsterdam fire and the 1666 Great Fire of London almost fully destroyed these cities. Both fires sparked governments to draw up far-reaching building and zoning regulations.

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