Building Codes & Principles

 

Hazard Mitigation Building Codes, Laws, Regulations & Policies

Building codes specify the minimum design and construction requirements to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of both building occupants and the general public. 

The following documents provide guidance on the hazard-resistant provisions in the building codes for property owners, engineers and design professionals, building codes officials, and the general public.

These resources are divided by natural hazard and address earthquake, flood, and wind.

  • FEMA’s Building Code Resources page contains documents summarizing the International Codes’ hazard-resistant provisions in the building codes for property owners, engineers and design professionals, building codes officials, and the general public.  These resources are divided by natural hazard and address earthquake, flood, and wind (including information on hurricane and tornado shelters).
  • The FEMA Building Codes Toolkit provides guidance to help property owners understand building codes. The Building Codes Toolkit provides basic guidance and easy-to-use tools to help property owners understand building codes and the basic processes and standards associated with proper design, permitting, construction, and mitigation.  Historically, details of the building codes, how they are implemented, and its value to overall community planning and disaster resilience have only been understood by the technical community (i.e., engineers, architects, building codes officials, etc.).  FEMA recognizes that it is also equally important for the property owners to learn building codes and how their investment to proper construction ultimately protects their property and their occupants.
  • The Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Building publication outlines using green building practices to retain or improve natural hazard resistance. This document discusses how to retain or improve natural hazard resistance while incorporating these green building practices.  While most common green building practices provide sustainability advantages with little or no effect on structural performance or durability, others require reevaluation of the building’s structural design or detailing to retain its integrity during natural hazard events.  Often, only minimal design modifications are required to maintain natural hazard resistance.

 


 

FEMA Study Highlights Benefits on Adopting Higher Building Code Standards

November 19, 2020

FEMA completed a four-phase study on the effects of adopting and enforcing building codes in communities.  The FEMA Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study calculates losses from three types of natural hazards (earthquakes, flooding, and hurricane winds) for each state and Washington, D.C.

Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study on Loss Prevention

EMA released the “Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study” which highlights and uses big data to show the benefits of constructing buildings at a higher building code standard for natural disasters such as wind, floods and seismic activity. FEMA found that 18.1 million buildings constructed in the United States with high building code standards save the nation about $1.6 billion annually.

This study uses newly available nationwide data on actual buildings and jurisdictional building code adoption to provide a quantitative understanding of the impact of adopting the International Codes (I-Codes) introduced in 2000.  Buildings that adopted the I-Code standards demonstrated reduced damage, resulting in savings to building owners, insurers, the community at large and to the nation.

These savings represent the cumulative losses avoided from property damage associated with using the I-Codes or similar building codes during floods, hurricane, and earthquakes.  FEMA projects that, by the year 2040, the annual savings nationwide will grow to around $3.2 billion.  This adds up to $132 billion in total losses avoided from 2000 to 2040.

With projected savings and losses avoided, these dollar values represent considerable financial reasons for communities to proactively adopt and enforce hazard-resistant building codes.  The study’s results fully support FEMA’s mission to help people prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural hazards, specifically through programs and efforts that promote using hazard-resistant building codes.

 

 


Protecting Communities and Saving Money The Case for Adopting Building Codes Brochure

The new FEMA study has made the impact of building codes on sustainability clear. The cost of not adopting building codes is too high.

Link to a 12-page summary, Protecting Communities and Saving Money – The Case for Adopting Building Codes, as well as the full study detailing the four phases of this project, methodology, results, and conclusions are available on FEMA’s website.

 


Building Codes Save:
A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention

April 2020

FEMA has also developed a 3-page Fact Sheet on Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention to help communities better understand how building codes can help save communities.

What are the most important findings at this stage of the study?

Billions are Saved from Direct Losses

Adoption of post 2000 I-Codes over the past 20 years will save billions of dollars in future avoided losses related to direct building and content damages.

Increased Savings for Indirect Losses (See 2018 Mitigation Saves study)

Significant additional code-driven community savings will be realized when considering reduction or avoidance of:

  • Lost productivity
  • Repetitive Loss
  • Community costs of recovery
  • Environmental damage
  • Weakened financial standing and ratings

Link to the Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention. Fact Sheet

 


FLOOD GUIDANCE


Quick Reference Guide –

Comparison of Select NFIP and 2018 I-Code Requirements for Special Flood Hazard Areas

October 30, 2018

The updated Quick Reference Guide illustrates the similarities and highlights the differences between the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) minimum requirements and the requirements of the 2018 International Codes® (I-Codes®) and ASCE 24-14, Flood Resistant Design and Construction (ASCE 24), a standard referenced by the I-Codes.

The illustrations highlight some of the key similarities and differences between foundation types, lowest floor elevations, enclosures below elevated buildings, and utilities requirements of the NFIP and I-Codes for most residential, commercial and industrial buildings (classified as “Flood Design Class 2”).

 


Reducing Flood Losses Through the International Codes –

Coordinating Building Codes and Floodplain Management Regulations, 5th Edition

 
October 18, 2019

Developed by the International Code Council and FEMA, this guide helps state and local officials integrate the

International Codes® (I-Codes®) into their current floodplain management regulatory processes related to structures, buildings, and other development to satisfy the requirements to participate in the NFIP. 

FEMA considers the latest editions of the I-Codes to be the minimum standards for hazard resistance, including flood hazards, high winds, and earthquake hazards.

  • Chapter 2 describes three approaches for coordinating the I-Codes and local floodplain management regulations and identifies several advantages and considerations when relying on the flood provisions of the codes.
  • Chapter 3 explains several differences between the NFIP regulations and the I-Code requirements related to specific terminology and provisions. Many requirements in the codes exceed NFIP minimum requirements, and some provisions are more specific than the NFIP, especially in the International Building Code®, which references ASCE 24, Flood Resistant Design and Construction.
  • Chapter 4 contains questions that states and communities should answer to know whether and how to modify existing floodplain management regulations to coordinate with building codes.
  • Chapter 5 describes modifications that can be adopted to incorporate higher standards in State and local building codes that are based on the I-Codes to further increase building and community resilience to flood damage.
  • Chapter 6 introduces the model code-coordinated ordinances prepared by FEMA. The model ordinances are listed below.
  • Appendix A lists cited references and other resources that are useful for understanding and interpreting the requirements of the NFIP.
  • Appendix B provides sample checklists for a plan review and inspection.
 

 


Chapter 6 introduces the model code-coordinated ordinances prepared by FEMA in the Reducing Flood Losses Through the International Codes. 

Three versions of a model ordinance are coordinated – written as a companion – with the flood provisions of the International Codes® (I-Codes).  See links in the table below.

Version 3: Model Code-Coordinated Ordinance Checklist

0.34M

September 5, 2019

Version 3: Model Code-Coordinated Ordinance

0.38M

September 5, 2019

Version 2: Model Code-Coordinated Ordinance

0.31M

September 5, 2019

Version 1: Model Code-Coordinated Ordinance

0.08M

September 5, 2019

 

 

Important Links

ICC – International Code Council https://www.iccsafe.org/

ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers https://www.asce.org/

FLASH – Federal Alliance for Safe Homes https://www.flash.org/

EERI – Earthquake Engineering Research Institute https://www.eeri.org/

ISO – ISO Mitigation https://www.isomitigation.com/

IBHS – Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety https://ibhs.org/

 

Link to the ASCE library website for the latest policy and guidance: https://ascelibrary.org/doi/book/10.1061/asce24