Florida and Virginia Outpace 16 Other States in Building Code Report

Jan 12, 2012

The following article was published in PropertyCasualty360º on January 12, 2012:

Fla. and Va. Outpace Six Other States in Building Code Report

By Caroline McDonald

A report ranking the 18 most hurricane-prone states by their adoption of building codes placedFloridaandVirginiaat the top of the list.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) released its report yesterday, which was lauded by the American Insurance Association and the Reinsurance Association of America.

Of the 18 states located along the Gulf of Mexico and theAtlanticCoastonlyFloridaandVirginiacame up with scores of 95, the only two to break the 90 mark. At the bottom of the list wasMississippiwith a score of four.Delaware,AlabamaandTexaswere not too far behind with scores of 17, 18 and 18, respectively. 

The purpose of the IBHS report, “An Assessment of Residential and Building Code and Enforcement Systems for Life Safety and Property Protection in Hurricane Prone Regions,” is to provide states with the information and tools necessary to identify where their systems need improvement, IBHS says.

Codes are developed through a consensus process taking into account established scientific and engineering principles and the experience of leading technical experts, construction professionals, enforcement personnel and the products industries, IBHS says.

Building code enforcement generally takes place at the local level and has little value if not enforced, according to IBHS, adding that independent studies of damage following Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge Earthquake reveal that lax code enforcement needlessly increased total damage.

Wanda Edwards, director of code development for IBHS tells National Underwriter that the report is the result of research comparing regulatory and other factors in each of the 18 states.

The study examines the three main elements of a state’s building code system:

  • Code adoption and enforcement—Statewide mandatory code adoption and enforcement are the primary elements to require that the minimum standards of codes are utilized.
  • Code official training and certification—Code official training and certification are part of the regulatory scheme to ensure that code officials are properly educated, trained and tested in order to correctly enforce building codes.
  • Licensing requirements for construction trades—Licensing requirements for construction trades ensure that contractors and subcontractors are familiar with the sections of code that impact them, that they demonstrate minimum competency in their trade, and stay current with code requirements.

 RAA President Frank Nutter says in a statement, “Strong building codes are fundamental to hazard mitigation. Homes that are built using more stringent building codes are less vulnerable to the effects of severe weather, resulting in fewer deaths, injuries and property damage. And less property damage will ultimately result in reduced insurance costs for all policyholders.”

Nutter adds that the absence of statewide building codes results in a “patchwork of different quality construction that can change from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, or across arbitrary political boundaries.”

Uniform codes, he says, promote a level playing field for architects, builders and suppliers, “and if effectively enforced, will result in more effective and improved hazard mitigation.”

AIA says it supports the goal of implementing stronger and more uniform building codes, which will save lives and property. 

“Florida’s adoption of strong and uniform building codes on a statewide basis beginning in 1994, following the devastation of Hurricane Andrew two years earlier, continues to serve as a model to all states including those inland who may sustain wind damage,” says Jim Whittle, AIA assistant general counsel and chief claims counsel. “Floridacorrectly recognized the need to update its codes and place a priority on home and business safety for its citizens.  Had such codes been in place prior to Andrew, it is estimated that damage sustained by the hurricane would have been reduced by 50 percent for residential and 40 percent for commercial properties.”

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