What are model building codes?

Model building codes represent the consensus of engineers and construction experts on what are the standards necessary to protect people and property from natural disasters and extreme weather conditions. The standards, which have been developed by the International Code Council, are a proven way to mitigate the devastation of natural disasters.

How effective are strong building codes?

Study after study confirms that model building codes are the nation’s best defense against hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding and other natural disasters. Research by Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center found that strong building codes would have reduced wind damage from Katrina by 80 percent, saving $8 billion.

New research is currently being conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety at a state-of-the art lab in South Carolina that further illustrates the important role that model building codes can play in reducing the costs of natural disasters. The facility has been running simulated tests that show how adherence to strong building codes can help test homes withstand 110 mile-per-hour winds with little or no damage, while test homes with the same floor plan that were not built to model codes were completely destroyed.

Does The Safe Building Code Incentive Act mandate model building codes?

No, the legislation does not include a mandate. It simply provides a strong financial incentive for states to adopt strong codes that have been proven to save lives, protect property and reduce taxpayer exposure to natural disasters. Introduced by Congressmen Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Sires (D-NJ) and Hanna (R-NY), H.R. 2069 provides an additional four percent of post-disaster grants to states that voluntarily adopt model building codes and institute the inspection and enforcement mechanisms to give their codes teeth.

How many states would currently qualify for the additional funding?

There are 16 states that would qualify immediately. Several more would be eligible for additional funding with minor legislative changes.

More importantly, adoption of The Safe Building Code Incentive Act would provide momentum in nearly every state that currently doesn’t have strong building codes to adopt and enforce them. The fact that much of the nation has a complicated patchwork system of building codes that are below modern standards is a major problem. We know from scientific research that model building codes can dramatically reduce the damage from extreme weather and natural disasters. It’s time for our policymakers in Washington, DC and at the state level to incentivize their adoption.

How much will The Safe Building Code Incentive Act cost taxpayers?

The legislation will not require an additional appropriation to FEMA. The law can be administered by reallocating the manner in which funding inside the Disaster Relief Fund is awarded. Moreover, it is important to note that encouraging the adoption of strong building codes will actually reduce taxpayer exposure to natural disasters over the long run.

According to a FEMA commissioned study, every $1 invested in mitigation activities – like encouraging the adoption of strong building codes – provides $4 in additional benefits to the nation.

In a landmark study conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley in Florida, researchers found that damage to homes built to model codes was on average $14 per square foot. The damage to homes that weren’t built to the higher standards was $24 per square foot or nearly double.