New Study: St. Louis County’s 89 Local Governments Have Far More Inconsistent and Outdated Building Codes Than Peer Competitors

St. Louis County’s Confusing Fragmentation in Local Codes Puts Us at Competitive Disadvantage Versus Peer Metro Regions

ST. LOUIS, MO (March 14, 2022)
 – St. Louis County not only has inconsistent and outdated building codes across its 89 local governments – a new study finds the confusing and costly web of codes negatively sets it apart from the best practices used by cities across the United States.

In fact, the study of metropolitan areas nationwide found only one county in the United States that was comparable to the fragmented codes across St. Louis County. The new study compares St. Louis County’s chaotic maze of local building codes with peer competitor cities, including Nashville, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. The research shows those metro areas have consistent and updated building codes because their minimum building codes are set by their respective states, as is the case in 43 states.

Missouri doesn’t have a statewide building code. Neither does neighboring Illinois. The closest parallel to our fragmentation was in Chicago and surrounding Cook County. Even then, St. Louis County still fares worse in the consistency of building codes because of its sheer number of small municipalities that bear the burden of building code adoption and enforcement. For example, the smallest municipality in Cook County is 25 times larger than the tiniest in St. Louis County.

The latest study was conducted by the St. Louis REALTORS®, a founding partner of Safer + Simpler St. Louis County, a coalition of a dozen partners that is leading the local conversation about St. Louis County’s cumbersome, costly and inconsistent building codes. The study found three key drivers of the fragmentation in building codes, which identify paths for policy solutions that Safer + Simpler St. Louis County will explore. 

Safer + Simpler St. Louis County will build upon the latest research, which follows up on last fall’s St. Louis REALTORS® study that found at least 42 building codebooks are used across the 89 local jurisdictions in St. Louis County. Together, the codes that were counted had a whopping 809 chapters, totaling about 17,000 pages. For comparison, that’s nearly double the 9,000 pages of the Internal Revenue Service Code.

Feedback to Safer + Simpler St. Louis County shows the frustration among contractors, architects, engineers, and individual homeowners trying to navigate multiple bureaucracies, said Charlie Hinderliter, the coalition’s director.

“The latest research reinforces a discouraging yet undeniable truth: St. Louis County’s maze of local governments have inconsistent and often outdated building codes that cause confusion and higher costs, and discourage investment and growth,” Hinderliter said. “Our growing coalition agrees St. Louis County residents and businesses need and deserve equity and consistency in these critical codes designed to protect our health and safety.”

The studies are available to review online at At the same website, visitors are invited to share their own stories of navigating the inconsistent and costly maze of building codes, inspections, and permitting across St. Louis County’s local governments.

“Our Safer + Simpler St. Louis County coalition seeks to simplify building codes, inspections, and permitting to make doing business easier, facilitate economic development, and improve residents’ health and safety,” Hinderliter said. “Our goals are to pursue and deliver consistency in codes, quality inspections, and permitting services to ensure residents and professionals have equal access to healthy and safe buildings. Through these efforts, we hope to improve economic development opportunities by modernizing the process of building and investing in St. Louis County.” 


St. Louis REALTORS®  |  12777 Olive Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63141  |   Phone (314) 576-0033  |

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