FEMA: Big data proves robust code standards’ returns on investment

The Federal Emergency Management Agency examines the benefits of constructing at a higher building code standard for natural disasters such as winds, floods and seismic activity in a new report, “Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study.” The agency finds that 18.1 million buildings constructed at a higher code standard could save the United States about $1.6 billion annually.

A 15-page summary, Protecting Communities and Saving Money – The Case for Adopting Building Codes, as well as the full study detailing four project phases, methodology, results and conclusions are available at www.fema.gov.

The study uses newly available nationwide data on actual structures and jurisdictional building code adoption. It provides a real-life quantitative understanding of the impact of adopting the International Codes introduced in 2000. Buildings abiding I-Code standards demonstrate reduced damage, resulting in savings to owners, insurers, the community at large, and the nation. The savings represent cumulative losses avoided from property damage associated with using the I-Codes or similar performance thresholds in the face of flood, hurricane and earthquake exposure.

By 2040, FEMA sees nationwide savings attributable to I-Codes provision growing to nearly $3.2 billion annually, equating to $132 billion in total losses avoided since 2000. With projected savings and losses avoided, study authors note, the dollar values represent considerable financial reasons for communities to proactively adopt and enforce hazard-resistant building codes. Study results fully support FEMA’s mission to help people before, during and after disasters, including programs and efforts that promote hazard resistant building code adoption.

The American Society of Civil Engineers invites comments through January on a new document, ASCE/COS 73-XX Standard Requirements for Sustainable Infrastructure, whose working data points include concrete and steel embodied carbon values. Components and outcomes described in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Life-Cycle Cost Analysis, Natural World, Quality of Life, Resilience, Resource Allocation and Sustainability Leadership chapters are intended to guide target projects cradle to grave.

“Leadership shall encourage transformative development of the infrastructure solution at the earliest stages; consider and analyze all reasonable alternatives; and consider natural, no-construction and constructed project solutions,” ASCE notes. “For constructed project solutions, the entire life-cycle shall be considered within the context of this standard.”

Accessing the ASCE Public Comment System at http://sp360.asce.org/SSO requires users to create a web account. Additional details on the “Requirements for Sustainable Infrastructure” draft can be obtained from ASCE Codes and Standards Coordinator James Neckel, 703/295-6176; [email protected].