As they mark the start of Building Safety Month today, the International Code Council (ICC), its members and partners are encouraging the public to join them in learning and promoting the important role modern building codes have in creating safer and more resilient communities. In its 40th year, Building Safety Month is a global campaign to raise awareness about the importance of building safety.
Building Safety Month provides homeowners, government officials, and the public with the necessary information for ensuring safety in the spaces where they live, work and learn. The 2020 theme is “Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World.” Over the next four weeks, the campaign will emphasize the importance of modern codes and strong code compliance for dealing with crucial issues such as disaster preparedness, water safety and sustainability, and motivating the next generation of building safety professionals.
“As society continues to evolve and we face new and unprecedented challenges, it becomes imperative that our building codes and standards are planned with an eye toward the future,” said Sara Yerkes, Code Council Senior Vice President of Government Relations. “With people spending more time indoors, creating safe, reliable and healthy buildings has never been more important. Our goal through Building Safety Month is to bring attention to the effectiveness of modern codes and the code officials who maintain them.”
“This is a milestone year for Building Safety Month – the Code Council, its members and partners have been celebrating building codes and the role of code officials during May for 40 years,” said Code Council Board of Directors President Greg Wheeler, CBO. “In difficult times, like our current pandemic, code officials remain essential to keeping us all safe and protected within the buildings we spend most of our time. Regardless of the circumstances, safe building will always be important.”
This year’s campaign is sponsored by the American Gas Association, the American Concrete Institute, the National Association of Home Builders, and many others.
Week One: Disaster Preparedness
Natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency. Advance planning for devastating events like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes helps individuals and communities increase the health and safety of their population during a disaster, protects the local tax base, ensures continuity of essential services, and supports a faster recovery in the aftermath of a disaster.
Part of the focus for Week One, May 1-10, is “Build to the Latest Codes.” One of the best ways for communities to prepare for disasters is to build to the most up-to-date, modern building codes. Disaster mitigation through the adoption and enforcement of building codes provides protection in the event of a natural disaster. Only 31 percent of hazard-prone jurisdictions in the U.S. adopt the latest two editions of hazard-resistant building codes. Broken down by hazard, that statistic is 59 percent for hurricane-prone, 33 percent for flood-prone, 60 percent for earthquake-prone, 46 percent for exposure to damaging wind, and 49 percent for tornado-prone jurisdictions.
It is also very important that codes are properly applied. Proper application requires that local building departments be sufficiently staffed with plan reviewers, inspectors and other qualified professionals, and that building officials are trained and stay up to date with code advancements through continuing education. Studies show good code enforcement decreases loss following disasters by up to 25 percent. When states and local jurisdictions apply the latest codes and they are diligently enforced, they are more likely to qualify for federal pre-disaster mitigation funding and for more post-disaster recovery assistance. Further, newly expanded FEMA grants in the U.S. will fund code adoption, administration and enforcement pre- and post-disaster – providing new resources for U.S. communities to update or build out enforcement efforts.
The National Institute of Building Sciences found that adopting the International Residential and Building Codes generates a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested. The same report found that designing to exceed select provisions of the I-Codes and adopting the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code would save an additional $4 for every $1 spent.
The I-Codes, developed by the International Code Council, are a family of 15 coordinated, modern building safety codes used in all 50 U.S. states and in many other countries that protect against disasters like fires, weather-related events and structural collapse.
The development and widespread adoption of building codes creates a uniform regulatory environment in which design professionals and contractors are held to a set of standards adopted by and applicable to the jurisdiction in which they work. The Rebuilding of London Act of 1666, after the Great Fire of London that same year, was the first building code of the modern era. Building regulation in the United States began in the late 1800s when major cities began to adopt and enforce building codes, also in response to large fires in densely populated urban areas. Over time, the scope of building codes broadened. Today, building codes address structural integrity, lighting, ventilation, safe egress, construction materials as well as fire resistance. They specify the minimum requirements to safeguard the health, safety and general welfare of building occupants.
Learn more about building codes below:
- Introduction to Building Codes
- Building Codes: How They Help You
- Benefits of Building Permits
- FEMA’s Building Codes Toolkit
Documents summarizing the hazard-resistant provisions of the I-Codes are available at FEMA’s Building Code Resources page. CodeMasters, which are easy-to-follow reference guides for designing in accordance with the latest I-Codes, are available on seismic, wind, snow and flood loads, and are available in the Code Council store.
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