Virginia, Florida, S.C. top building code and resiliency survey of coastal states

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) President and CEO Julie Rochman announced the second edition of the “Rating the States” report at the 2015 National Hurricane Conference. It assesses progress 18 hurricane-prone states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast have made to strengthen their residential building code systems since IBHS’ original 2012 report.24 Code 400

“Because building codes provide minimum design and construction standards, they are very important to the safety of our nation’s homes. When disasters strike, communities with strong, well-enforced building codes fare better than those with weak or no codes,” Rochman observes. “When buildings are stronger and more resilient, property damage is greatly reduced, home and business owners are able to recover faster, the local economy and tax base are maintained, and the amount of government disaster aid is decreased. These are among the many reasons that communities should adopt and enforce strong codes before catastrophes strike.”

The new Rating the States finds most states with strong building code systems in place at the time of the original report remain committed to building safety; have updated their codes to the latest model code editions, or are in the process of doing so; and, have maintained effective enforcement systems. Unfortunately, authors note, a number of states have taken no action to improve their code systems, and a few have weaker systems in place now than in 2012. Here are the 2015 state scores, based on a 100-point scale:

  • Virginia (95 points)
  • Florida (94 points)
  • South Carolina (92 points)
  • New Jersey (89 points)
  • Connecticut (88 points)
  • Rhode Island (87 points)
  • North Carolina (84 points)
  • Louisiana (82 points)
  • Massachusetts (79 points)
  • Maryland (78 points)
  • Georgia (69 points)
  • New York (56 points)
  • Maine (55 points)
  • New Hampshire (48 points)
  • Texas (36 points)
  • Mississippi (28 points)
  • Alabama (26 points)
  • Delaware (17 points)

IBHS evaluated 47 key data points to assess the effectiveness of the states’ residential building code programs, including code adoption and enforcement; building official training and certification; and, licensing requirements for construction trades who implement building code provisions. “One of the most important aspects of IBHS’ Rating the States Report is that it goes beyond evaluating each state’s code system to offer a clear roadmap with specific details for states to follow as they seek to update and improve their code systems,” Rochman explains.

In the case of high-wind events, such as hurricanes, research shows that modern building codes can make a difference in reducing the amount of storm-related damage. A study by IBHS, the University of Florida and Federal Emergency Management Administration Mitigation Assessment Team following Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004, found that modern building codes reduced the severity (cost) of insurance losses by 42 percent and the frequency (number) of insured losses by 60 percent.