Florida Hurricane Building Codes Lose Ground in 2015 Ratings

2015 saw the state of Florida slip to second place in the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s ratings of hurricane building codes. The 2015 update of the original report came during the opening session of the National Hurricane Conference that took place last week in Austin, Texas. According to Eliot Kleinberg, the IBHS has found that states shown as having strong building codes in the original report have updated their codes or are in the midst of doing so. Florida scored 94 out of 100 points in the 2015 update, just one point shy of Virginia’s 95 points. In 2012, Florida and Virginia tied for first place with 95 points.

Florida lost a point because its codes have not yet been updated to meet the 2012 International Residential Code standards. The IRC was published in 2012 by the Washington, D.C.-based International Code Council, an organization which seeks to streamline international building rules by creating a single, shared set of codes. The IRC is updated every 3 years, and IBHS President Julie Rochman confirms that the state of Florida is in the process of making the necessary updates to its hurricane building code.

Distressingly, some states have chosen not to update their codes. In a recent release, the Rochman explains that “unfortunately, a number of states took no action to improve their code systems, and a few have weaker systems in place now than in 2012.” In the face of natural disaster, “communities with strong, well-enforced building codes fare better than those with weak or no codes.” Stronger, more resilient buildings greatly reduce property damage, which means that “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.”

Florida’s mandatory programs for code official certification, training, and CE along with the required licensing of general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and roofing contractors were particularly commended in the 2012 hurricane building codes study, which was the first state-by-state assessment of its kind. 1992’s Hurricane Andrew prompted the first major overhaul of Florida’s building codes, which began in Miami-Dade county and spread to become the uniform code statewide. Damage surveys after 2004’s Hurricane Charley in 2004 demonstrated how the modern codes reduced insurance losses by 42 percent, and the frequency of insured losses by 60 percent. The 2015 study assessed the Gulf coast and Atlantic states’ progress in hurricane code development following the 2012 report.

Rochman thinks that strong building codes are the bare minimum that responsible states should do to prepare for hurricanes. “In no other aspect of your life would you accept the minimum,” says Rochman. “We’re spending tens of billions in some years to rebuild structures that were damaged by Mother Nature.”

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