Sweeping agency actions show White House all in on codes & standards-driven resiliency

Sources: White House Briefing Room; CP staff

“Building codes set the baseline for the safe design and construction of our homes, schools, and workplaces, providing the minimum requirements to adequately safeguard the health, safety and welfare of occupants,” the Obama administration noted in a statement on the Conference on Resilient Building Codes. The White House-hosted, May 10 event saw announcement of actions across federal agencies overseeing or influencing building and nonbuilding construction:

  • National Building Safety Month: President Barack Obama made the declaration for May to recognize and pay tribute to those who ensure the safety and resilience of the nation’s buildings and infrastructure, and reaffirm commitment to upholding and abiding by strong and effective building safety standards.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: Incorporation of Resilient Building Codes. HUD will review its existing building construction requirements with the goal of aligning them to the most recent model codes and standards for resilient construction.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Institute of Building Sciences: Update to the 2005 Multihazard Mitigation Council’s “Mitigation Saves Study.” FEMA will support NBIS’ revisiting of a study concluding that society saves four dollar for every dollar spent on hazard mitigation. A successor document, “An Independent Study on Savings Associated with Public and Private Mitigation,” seeks to update the original “Mitigation Saves” data and gauge cost-effectiveness of private-sector measures.
  • FEMA Disaster Deductible for the Public Assistance Program: The agency also commits to further explore incentivizing building code adoption and enforcement at the state and local level through a disaster deductible requirement. In January 2016, FEMA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking introducing the Public Assistance Program deductible as a general concept and soliciting stakeholder input. A revised plan would allow states to earn credits toward their deductible requirement through building code adoption and enforcement.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology: Codes and Standards for Resilience to Tornadoes. Along with FEMA and sister agencies, the Department of Commerce-hosted NIST is developing advanced tornado hazard maps to underpin a new performance-based standard for design of buildings and other structures to better resist weather extremes. The maps and standard will help design professionals ensure that future buildings are better equipped to withstand the impacts of high winds and debris.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Resilient Building Codes Resource Website. The Corps has launched Building Resilience to promote more resilient communities through use of the latest standards and criteria, building codes, and recent climate science. Its serves as a starting point for planners and designers with needs for greater building safety and resilience.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Sustainable Communities’ Smart Growth Code Fixes for Climate Adaptation report. The agency has scheduled fall release of a document providing communities a menu of prospective policy, zoning and building code changes, while bringing other environmental, economic, social, and health benefits.
  • Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection: Community Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit. The agency envisions actionable guidance for building critical infrastructure resilience considerations into planning and resource allocation decisions at the community level. Department of Agriculture: Incorporation of Resilient Building Codes into Rural Housing Programs. Agency will review existing building construction requirements toward alignment with the most recent model codes and standards for resilient construction.
  • Department of Transportation: Resilient Design of the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. In partnership with the General Services Administration, the agency is seeking an exchange partner to redevelop the 14-acre, Cambridge, Mass., site and apply resilient design principles to the Federal building portion.