IBHS Field Research: Hurricane Charley

IBHS’ field investigation into building performance after Hurricane Charley revealed significant reductions in the frequency and severity of hurricane-related damage in homes built to modern codes. Download the IBHS Hurricane Charley Report.

The devastation left behind by Hurricane Andrew when it struck the State of Florida in 1992 fueled the beginning of a process to reevaluate the building code standards in place and the enforcement of these standards. In 1995, coastal areas of Florida, including Charlotte County, began to use and enforce high wind design provisions for residential housing. A key element in that process was the adoption of the SBCCI’s Standard for Hurricane Resistant Construction SSTD-10 as a prescriptive alternative to engineered design of housing. A major emphasis of SSTD-10 and engineering based design was the development of continuous load paths to ensure that all loads were directed to the foundations. The move to formal consideration of high wind design and the use of SSTD-10 as an alternative was accompanied by significant training and education of builders and building officials. The first full year where high wind standards were in place and used in Charlotte County was 1996.

Toward the end of the 1990’s Florida began moving towards adoption and enforcement of a statewide building code. The first edition was the Florida Building Code 2001, which was adopted in mid year 2002. Once again, the adoption of this code was accompanied by extensive education and training, including a requirement that all licensed engineers, architects and contractors take a course on the new building code. This code had been in place for about two years when the 2004 hurricane season reached its peak.

In 2004, homes constructed to these new standards as well as older construction methods were put to the test as four major hurricanes attacked Florida from both coastlines in a six week period between August 13th and September 28th, 2004. This study focuses on Hurricane Charley, the first of these storms, and assesses the relationships between building codes and damage. Specifically, the study seeks to determine whether and by how much the new building codes resulted in a lower claim rate per policy, less interior damage, and lower claim severity. One insurance member of the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shared their claim experience in Charlotte County, FL with IBHS and has allowed IBHS to share the results of the data analysis through this report.