Implementing I-codes could save $600B by 2060, projects FEMA

A new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report shows implementing International Codes (I-codes) could save the country $600 billion by 2060. Photo courtesy FEMA
A new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report shows implementing International Codes (I-codes) could save the country $600 billion by 2060.
Photo courtesy FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released its landmark study, “Building Codes Save: A National Study,” featuring an in-depth look at the quantified benefits—avoided losses to buildings and building contents—from adopting modern building codes and standards.

“With incredible analytic detail, this study reaffirms what so many studies before have concluded—adopting and implementing the [International Codes] I-codes is one of the most effective ways to safeguard our communities against disasters,” said Dominic Sims, CBO, CEO of the International Code Council (ICC).

The study affirmed the recent finding by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) that adopting modern codes provides $11 in mitigation savings for every $1 invested. Alarmingly, the FEMA study found that currently 65 percent of counties, cities, and towns across the United States have not adopted modern building codes, only 50 percent of cumulative post-2000 construction adhered to the I-codes, and 30 percent of new construction is occurring in communities with no codes at all or codes that are more than 20 years outdated.

“This study is excellent news for consumers as it delivers powerful economic evidence that modern building codes are the essential public policy tool to help communities survive and recover from disasters,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) president. “The findings validate yet again that safer and stronger buildings preserve our quality of life today and strengthen our ability to confront an accelerating number of deadly, billion-dollar disasters tomorrow. We urge all leaders to recognize and use these profound insights to champion the cause for codes, and we thank FEMA for their leadership in bringing this critical information forward.”

Based on a database of more than 18 million actual buildings constructed since the inception of the I-codes in 2000, the frequency of hazard events across the country, and the contents and edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) in effect in each locality where post-2000 construction took place, the study found:

● IRC and IBC provided more than $27 billion in cumulative mitigation benefits against flood, hurricane wind, and earthquake hazards from 2000 to 2016, and these benefits could have been doubled if all post 2000 construction adhered to the I-codes;
● if construction continues at the pace the study observed and if the proportion of that construction adhering to the I-codes is consistent with the trend the study identifies, the I-codes could help communities avoid $132 billion to $171 billion in cumulative losses through 2040; and
● if all new buildings across the country were built to modern editions of the I-codes, the country would save more than $600 billion by 2060.

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