Building Science & Building Code Resources


Get Ready for Building Safety Month 2024: A Month-Long Focus on Building Safety and Resilience

As May 2024 approaches, we eagerly anticipate Building Safety Month, an annual campaign that plays a pivotal role in raising awareness about building safety and resilience. This year’s theme, “Mission Possible,” is a call to action for everyone to engage with and understand the importance of building safety in our communities. The International Code Council (ICC) has meticulously organized a five-week program, each week focusing on a different aspect of building safety.

From an introduction to the fundamentals of building safety in Week 1 to celebrating successes in the field in Week 5, the campaign offers a comprehensive look at how we can contribute to safer buildings. This is a unique opportunity for individuals, families, and professionals alike to learn, engage, and apply crucial safety principles in our daily lives. We encourage everyone to visit the ICC’s Building Safety Month website here to explore the wealth of resources and information available.

Building Safety Month is not just an educational campaign; it’s a movement towards a safer, more resilient future. By participating, you’re not only gaining valuable knowledge but also contributing to a larger global effort to enhance building safety. Week 2‘s focus on preparing a building safety plan, for example, provides actionable insights for safeguarding our homes and communities. Similarly, Week 4‘s emphasis on community engagement and advocacy offers practical tips on becoming a building safety proponent, including how to involve children in these vital lessons. The campaign culminates in Week 5, where we celebrate the achievements of individuals and communities who have made a difference in building safety.

Your participation in Building Safety Month can make a significant impact. So, mark your calendars for May 2024, visit the ICC website, and join us in making our “Mission Possible” – a mission for a safer world.

Catalog of FEMA Building Science Resources

6th Edition – FEMA P-787 

January 2022

FEMA’s Building Science and Earthquake and Wind Programs Branches have compiled this catalog of available FEMA publications for natural hazards.  The publication descriptions are first organized by primary hazard – earthquake, food, high wind, hurricane, multi-hazard, other hazards, Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) program, and building codes resources – and then by stakeholder groups – individuals and homeowners, teachers and kids, private sector and small business, community planning and policy, building professionals and engineers (contractors, builders, engineers, and architects), and private sector and small business – and are further arranged by subject areas and ordered alphabetically.

Link to download  P-787 Catalog of FEMA Building Science Resources

Building Science Resource Library

The Building Science Resource Library contains all of FEMA’s hazard-specific guidance that focuses on creating hazard-resistant communities.

Link to FEMA’s Building Science Library.

Link to Flood Building Codes

Link to NFIP Technical Bulletins


Storm Shelters: A New Edition of ICC 500

February 2024

The International Code Council (ICC) has released a new edition of the ICC 500 standard, Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, in November of 2023. The free text version of this updated standard is available here.

The ICC 500-2023 is a consensus-based standard that sets forth the latest requirements for the design and construction of storm shelters. Storm shelters are critical for life-safety protection against tornadoes and hurricanes, especially whenever evacuation is not possible for hurricanes and short notice is the norm for tornadoes. The updated standards reflect the latest advancements and research, ensuring that storm shelter occupants will be safe even in extreme winds up to 250 mph for tornado shelters.

Two federal agencies, FEMA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), played pivotal roles in this update process. NIST’s Dr. Marc Levitan served as the Chair for the entire standard, FEMA’s Dr. Pataya Scott served as the Chair of the Structural Chapter, and FEMA contractor Glenn Overcash was the Chair of the Appendix which covers storm shelter preparedness and emergency operations plans. The two agencies worked together throughout the process to ensure there were no competing federal proposals on changes to the standard.

This update to ICC 500 happened faster than the typical wait between editions, following the last update released in December of 2020, as the committee was interested in ensuring the standard aligned with the new tornado loads chapter in ASCE 7-22, Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structuresand publishing in time so that the ICC 500-2023 will also be referenced in the 2024 International Codes. Both goals were achieved by the committee under the leadership of Dr. Levitan.

We strongly encourage all stakeholders in the building and construction industry, as well as local building officials and emergency management professionals, to become familiar with the ICC 500-2023. It’s not just about compliance; it’s about safeguarding communities and saving lives.

FEMA’s Earthquake and Wind Programs Branch and Building Science Branches are actively working on updating FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, and FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building or Installing a Safe Room for Your Home, to reference ICC 500-2023 and will be available later this year.

Stay informed and stay safe – your proactive steps today can make a world of difference tomorrow.

Building Community Resilience with Natural Hazard Code Adoption and Enforcement

August 2022

In November 2020, FEMA’s landmark study, Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study, and its accompanying brochure, Protecting Communities and Saving Money, made the case for why communities should proactively adopt and enforce natural hazard-resistant building codes. The results spoke for themselves: an estimated reduction in property losses of $132 billion–based on forecasted consistent growth associated with using modern building codes from 2000-2040–nationwide.

As June 1 marked the start of hurricane season, officials from the White House, FEMA, state and local government and private sector entities announced the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes at Florida International University. Within this initiative, federal departments and agencies will review federal funding and financing of building construction to ensure projects follow updated model codes. The initiative will also provide incentives and support for communities to adopt modern building codes. FEMA’s Building Codes Strategy was announced in April at the National Hurricane Conference.

To help with these efforts, FEMA published the Building Codes Adoption Playbook for Authorities Having Jurisdiction. The Playbook is intended for officials interested in increasing community resilience and reducing loss from natural hazards by adopting the latest editions of model building codes.

The Playbook equips officials with background and language to help educate decision-makers and constituents on the benefits of adopting and enforcing the latest building code editions. In addition, the publication provides general steps to help navigate the code adoption process and informs about FEMA grants available to support building code adoption and enforcement activities.

A Step Forward, recommendations for Improving Seismic Code Development, Content, and Education

April 2022 

FEMA P-2191, A Step Forward, recommendations for Improving Seismic Code Development, Content, and Education  summarizes recommendations to improve seismic code and standard development, content and education.

FEMA P-2191 identifies how improved content, usability and better distribution of updates would improve the public’s understanding of seismic codes.  It also suggests seismic code and standard education to practicing engineers and building officials.

Seismic codes and standards provide necessary regulations for building design and construction to meet the required level of seismic performance.  However, there are many areas where seismic codes and standards can be improved.  This report helps to capture the opinions and recommendations of seismic code and standard developers, users and other stakeholders.

Link to Download.

EPA Tool Provides the Public with Customized Updates on Local Enforcement and Compliance Activities

March 22, 2022

EPA announced the release of a new web tool, called “ECHO Notify,” that empowers members of the public to stay informed about important environmental enforcement and compliance activities in their communities.  Through ECHO Notify, users can sign up to receive weekly emails when new information is available within the selected geographic area, such as when a violation or enforcement action has taken place at a nearby facility. 

ECHO Notify provides information on all EPA enforcement and compliance activities as well as activities of state and local governments under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  

Increased transparency leads to stronger deterrence of environmental violations.  As more people play an active role in protecting their neighborhoods from pollution, EPA has developed ECHO Notify so that finding updates on environmental enforcement and compliance activities is as easy as checking your email.

Link to EPA’s website ECHO Notify,. On the homepage, you can: 

  • Select a geographic area and/or facility ID(s)
  • Choose the type of compliance and enforcement information of interest

EPA has prepared a short video that provides an overview of ECHO Notify and explains how to use it.  Link to the video, ECHO Tutorial: Intro to ECHO NotifyEXITEXIT EPA WEBSITE.

Timeline of FEMA Policies and Regulations Related to Building Codes and Standards

March 25, 2022

FEMA’s Building Science Branch has released a Timeline of FEMA Policies and Regulations Related to Building Codes and Standards. The timeline shows the history of FEMA’s participation in the building code and standards development process.

One highlight of the timeline is the upcoming FEMA Building Code Strategy.  The strategy will act as the blueprint to advance the agency’s building code efforts to help people before, during and after disasters. 

The timeline highlights key building code regulations and events.  Each event is designated a color which indicates whether that event was a federal law/mandate, a FEMA action or a building code action.  The timeline also includes details about each calendar entry.

The timeline’s audience includes the general public, officials and community planners.  Hazard-resistant building codes are a low-cost, high-impact solution that will be central to breaking the cycle of disaster damage and reconstruction.

FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Grant Policy for Code Enforcement and Administration

FEMA implemented a disaster recovery grant policy under the Public Assistance program, “Building Code and Floodplain Management Administration and Enforcement.” 

This policy offers building officials and communities an effective way to access resources needed to effectively administer and enforce building codes and floodplain management ordinances for up to 180 days following a major disaster declaration. The goals of the new policy are to increase the overall speed of recovery and enhance compliance with state and local building codes and floodplain management ordinances.

The policy was established by Section 1206 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which made several important policy and regulatory changes to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Policy and Building Code Decision Tree – Navigating Building Damage within the Public Assistance Grant Program

March 29, 2021

The FEMA Policy and Building Code Decision Tree: Navigating Building Damage within the Public Assistance Grant Program guides FEMA staff, FEMA Public Assistance (PA) grant applicants, or their representatives, hazard mitigation officers, and others through the process of making determinations and decisions related to substantial structural and substantial damage.

As “substantial structural damage” and “substantial damage” are two conditions that require a building to improve beyond its pre-damage state, FEMA Public Assistance (PA) policy allows improvement of a damaged building through replacement when the cost of repair would exceed 50% of the replacement cost.

This document has been developed to guide FEMA staff, PA grant applicants or their representatives through the process of making these determinations and decisions.

Download the decision tree.