Tag Archive for: building codes

FEMA Study Shows Better Building Codes Provide 11-to-1 Return

A recent study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) demonstrated the value of adopting hazard-resistant building codes. They can provide an 11-to-1 return by reducing losses and helping communities get back on their feet faster after disasters. Not to mention saving lives. This 12-page brochure summarizes the 189-page study.

What FEMA Found

FEMA found that only about a third of counties and municipalities across the U.S. have adopted modern building codes; 65% have not. People living in those places, says FEMA, are bearing a dangerous, costly, and unnecessarily high level of risk in the face of natural disasters.

Weighing Costs Vs. Benefits Makes Compelling Case

The additional cost of building features such as roof tie-downs, window protection, strengthened walls, is on average less that 2% of total construction costs. Yet FEMA’s study found that areas with modern building codes will avoid at least $32 billion in losses from natural disasters when compared to jurisdictions without modern building codes.

That likely underrepresents savings, because the study focused only on buildings constructed since 2000, which represent only about 20% of buildings in the country. It also did not include “indirect losses” such as business interruption, time off the job to rebuild, and tax revenues lost.

Forty to sixty percent of small businesses do not reopen after a flood or hurricane which affects the overall viability of the entire community.

The next part of the brochure talks about the escalating threat of natural disasters and breaking the chain of destruction.

FEMA found that every $1 spent on mitigation in new building code construction saves $11 in disaster repair and recovery costs.

For instance, spending $4,500 to elevate a new home, and install roof-tie downs and storm shutters could save $48,000 during the life of a 30-year mortgage.

A 1% cost premium will provide the roof tie-downs, window covers and other features that help a house survive high winds during a hurricane. In addition, 1.2%–1.7% cost increase over standard construction costs will raise the ground floor, generating the “freeboard” needed to withstand most floods.

How to Help Your Community Get Better

The final part of the brochure provides a roadmap for getting cities and counties to adopt better building codes.

For its part, FEMA is starting to provide grants to cities that have adopted contemporary building codes through its BRIC program (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities). Here’s this year’s Notice of Funding Availability.

It appears that Texas could qualify for a billion dollars in BRIC grants if the State adopted current building codes.

Many people just assume that local officials have their backs and are doing the right thing when it comes to adopting the latest building codes. But obviously, if two thirds aren’t current, that’s a bad assumption. Building codes may not be the highest priority of officials. So how can you know which standards your community goes by?

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a new website called InspectToProtect.org. Putting your address, city or zip code in the search bar. The site will then search its database and tell you where you stand.

Inspect to Protect’s rating for Humble.

Use this information to start a dialog with your local representatives. You can also point them to this 90-minute video of a webinar produced by FEMA. It’s called “Where and How We Build: Using Land-Use and Building Codes to Increase Resilience.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/22/21

1546 Days after Hurricane Harvey