On two occasions this year, Congress enacted reforms for disaster preparedness that raise the profile and importance of building codes for purposes of planning and recovery. The nation’s disaster relief law – the Stafford Act – was first reformed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act
and later reformed with permanent fixes under the FAA Reauthorization bill passed in October 2018.
Under these amendments, building code adoption and enforcement are added as eligible activities and criteria used in grant programs aimed at reducing the impact of future disasters. In other words, states that act to adopt modern building codes and standards will be eligible for additional federal assistance in the event a disaster strikes. Moreover, the reforms allow damaged buildings to be rebuilt with federal support to better withstand future events, rather than merely restored to their pre-disaster condition.
These changes do not specifically address adoption and enforcement of energy codes. However, we expect that by encouraging the adoption and regular updating of the building codes that the energy code will also be positively affected.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
, the first six months of 2018 resulted in six weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. Moody’s Analytic
s estimates that losses resulting from Hurricane Florence will cost between $38 billion and $50 billion. Damage to homes and business can contribute significantly to the total impact of a disaster.
Construction built to meet or exceed modern building codes can therefore play an important role in reducing the overall economic impact of natural disasters. According to the Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report
published by the National Institute of Building Sciences, the model building codes developed by the International Code Council can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent.
Energy efficiency is a key part of a building’s – and a community’s – ability to withstand and quickly restore normalcy after a disaster. For example, a well-insulated building can comfort occupants when power is limited or cutoff. Building energy codes will also encourage the construction of more robust building envelope systems that can help avoid the crippling effects of moisture intrusion that is common in severe weather events.
The recognition by Congress that modern building codes deliver an answer to disaster preparedness is a positive for homeowners and businesses across the country. States now have the added incentive to prepare for tomorrow by enacting and enforcing better building codes today.