Florida’s building codes rated best in hurricane protection
Mar 29, 2012
The following article was published in the Palm Beach Post on March 29, 2012:
Florida’s Building Codes Rated Best in Hurricane Protection
By Eliot Kleinberg
Florida ranks highest among 18 hurricane-region states for building codes and their enforcement, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says.
The state got 95 points out of 100, and the institute praised its “well-developed system for regulation of all aspects of code adoption and enforcement, code enforcement training and certification, and licensing requirements for contractors and subcontractors .”
Institute President Julie Rochman presented the findings at the National Hurricane Conference on Wednesday.
In what the agency said was the first state-by-state assessment of its kind, it cited Florida’s mandatory programs for code officials’ certification, training and continuing education, as well as its required licensing of general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical and roofing contractors.
Florida’s codes underwent a major overhaul after Hurricane Andrew slammed South Florida in 1992. There’s now a uniform code for the entire state, including Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
“Andrew was the absolute perfect illustration of the importance of enforcement,” Rochman said.
“Florida had at the time (1992) what was considered a very robust code. But they didn’t have inspectors enforcing the code. Now it’s stronger and more uniform – and well-enforced.”
And, she said, inspectors are “licensed, they’re trained, and consumers have an avenue of appeal.”
Rochman scoffed at the argument that states such as North Carolina don’t need the same code for the hurricane-vulnerable Outer Banks that they do for their western mountain region.
“When it comes to hurricanes, they can come hundreds or thousands of miles inland,” Rochman said. And, of course, in Florida, no place is more than about 60 miles from the coast.
The agency studies states in the hurricane region because hurricanes have accounted for eight of the 10 most expensive disasters in U.S. history; six of those occurred since 2000, and damage continues to rise because of the disproportionate number of people who now live there.
Southeastern coastal counties make up only 3 percent of the total U.S. land mass but account for 15 percent of the U.S. population.
Also, their property value grew 7 percent from 2004 to 2007 and had a total value that year of $8.9 trillion, 17 percent of the insured value of all insured properties in all states.
As people continue to move to Sun Belt states, including Florida, “building codes are especially important in providing protection for newer residents who may be unfamiliar with local weather conditions and, therefore, lack an appreciation for ensuring that a builder takes hurricane loss prevention into account,” the report said.
Other states didn’t score as well as Florida, including three that went through the catastrophic Katrina in 2005. Louisiana got a 73, but Alabama and Texas got scores of 18. Mississippi was last with a score of 4.
None of the states that scored below a 20 has a mandatory statewide residential building code, the insurance institute said.
Mississippi “has virtually no regulatory process in place for building codes” and has “no statewide code, no mandatory enforcement, no programs or requirements for inspectors, and very few licensing requirements,” the report said.