Rating the States Midterm Update Found Half of Reviewed States Improved Residential Building Codes

Rating-States-Report-Banner-2As part of our mission to make structures more resilient against natural disasters, IBHS supports the adoption of strong, uniform, modern building codes nationwide. Last year, IBHS released a first-of-its-kind Rating the States Report, which assessed and rated the 18 most hurricane-prone coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, based on their residential building code and code enforcement processes.

At the time, IBHS staff found a wide range of standards from state to state when it came to adoption of current ICC-recommended codes, and required training and licensing for contractors and inspectors. IBHS released last week a Midterm Update to the Rating the States Report, which reviewed the progress the same 18 states have made in strengthening their residential building codes since the initial report.

The Midterm Update had encouraging news: half of the states have acted to improve their codes. However, seven have taken no action, and two have weakened their code systems. The update found that most of the states with strong building code systems in place when the original report was published remain committed to building safety; they have updated to the most recent model codes, and in some instances, passed legislation to further strengthen code protections. By contrast, most of the states with very low scores in the original report have taken no action to improve their codes, thus falling even further behind best practices.

Today we will highlight four states that have taken positive action: Florida and Virginia – the two highest-rated states in the original report – and New York and Alabama, which received lower ratings in the original report, but have taken positive steps in the last year. To view the complete details for each state, read the Rating the States Midterm Update.

Positive action:

FLORIDA (95 points in the original report)

Florida continues to be a leader in building code safety. Since publication of the Rating the States Report, Florida has adopted the 2009 editions of the IBC and IRC codes with Florida-specific amendments. These are named the 2010 editions of the Florida Building Code – Building and the Florida Building Code – Residential. Currently, the state is in the process of adopting the 2013 Florida Building Code based on the 2012 editions of the ICC codes, having completed review by various Technical Advisory Committees. Final rule adoption by the Florida Building Code Commission is tentatively set for Aug. 1, 2013. The projected effective date of the 2013 Florida Building Code is March 2014.

VIRGINIA (95 points in the original report)

Virginia currently is enforcing the 2009 editions of the IRC and other model building codes with amendments the commonwealth has adopted. Virginia is in the process of adopting the 2012 editions of the ICC codes. Code changes have been submitted to the Board of Housing and Community Development and will be published in the Virginia Register. After a final hearing and public comment period, in December 2013, the Board will move to approve the final regulations. The projected effective date of the 2012 codes is August 2014.

NEW YORK (60 points in the original report)

New York currently is enforcing the 2010 Building and Residential Code of New York State, which is based on the 2006 editions of the ICC codes. The state bypassed adoption of the 2009 editions of the ICC codes, but is now in the process of adopting the 2012 editions of the ICC codes. The tentative date for adoption of the 2012 editions of the ICC codes is May 2014. The fact that New York State did not adopt the ICC codes sooner is an area of concern.

The New York City building regulatory system remains exempt from the New York State requirements, although Sandy was a wake-up call regarding the city’s hurricane risk. The city currently is enforcing the 2003 edition of the IBC, but is in the process of adopting the 2009 edition of the IBC into its 2013 edition of the New York City Code. The proposed code and amendments were submitted to the City Council in July 2013. The effective date of the adoption will be nine months after approval by the City Council. The city is addressing opening protection requirements in the context of wind speed maps and requirements of the 2012 edition of the IBC. Also, IBHS is hopeful that both New York state and New York City will adopt automatic sprinkler requirements for one- and two-family residential dwellings that are in the IRC code.

ALABAMA (18 points in the original report)

Shortly before publication of the Rating the States Report, the state provided the Alabama Energy and Residential Board with authority to adopt a statewide residential code. On Oct. 1, 2012, the state adopted the Alabama Energy and Residential Codes (AERC) for all jurisdictions statewide. AERC is composed of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code® (2009 IECC) with Alabama amendments, and the 2009 edition of the IRC with Alabama amendments. Even though adoption of the 2009 IECC is mandatory throughout the state by all local governments, local jurisdictions are permitted to continue enforcing residential building codes previously enforced. However, jurisdictions that had not previously adopted a residential building code are now required to adopt the AERC (i.e., both 2009 IECC and 2009 IRC). It should be noted that enforcement aspects of the AERC are not clearly defined in the rule and/or can be considered non-existent.

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