Building Science & Building Code Resources

Preparing a Building Safety Plan

Natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency. According to academic and peer-to-peer studies such as the publication, Nature Communications, global damage caused by the climate crisis through extreme weather has cost $16 million an hour for the past 20 years. Storms, floods, heatwaves, and droughts have a human toll as well as destroyed swathes of property and critical infrastructure in recent decades.

Managing the risk of natural disasters is critical for the overall resilience of a nation. Advanced planning for devastating events like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes helps communities increase the health and safety of their population during a disaster, protects the local tax base, ensures the continuity of essential services, and supports a faster recovery in the aftermath of a disaster.

  • Know what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate. Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.
  • It is essential to be informed about the building codes adopted by your community for several reasons:
    • Safety and Structural Integrity: Building codes are designed to ensure the safety and structural integrity of buildings. Knowing and adhering to these codes helps protect individuals and property from potential hazards during natural disasters or emergencies.
    • Community Standards: Building codes contribute to maintaining a consistent and desirable aesthetic within a community. Adherence to these standards helps create neighborhoods that are visually cohesive and well-maintained.
    • Risk Mitigation: Building codes are frequently updated to incorporate lessons learned from past events, technological advancements, and changes in environmental conditions. Staying informed about these updates helps mitigate risks associated with emerging threats or vulnerabilities.
    • Community Resilience: A community that collectively follows and enforces building codes is more likely to be resilient in the face of natural disasters. Well-constructed and code-compliant structures contribute to the overall resilience of the community’s infrastructure.
  • Download the FEMA App to get preparedness strategies and real-time weather and emergency alerts.
  • Use the Ready.gov Hazard Information Sheets learn more about how to prepare for, keep safe during, and respond to hazards. Learn more about the research behind these information sheets on FEMA’s Protective Actions Research site.
  • The Are You Ready? Guide is a comprehensive guide provides detailed information on how best to prepare for disasters within families and communities. Learn general disaster preparedness tips and best practices to inform your planning.
  • 12 Ways to Prepare describes key ways that you can prepare for disasters. Just add a USPS mailing sticker to the back to send to community members.
  • FEMA’s Ready Campaign has print, online, and streaming resources that you can share to promote preparedness in your home and community.  
  • FEMA V-528, Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt Poster
  • Earthquake Safety Checklist (FEMA B-526)
  • Reducing Wildfire Risk to Your Home Infographic

Presentations from the 2024 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit are now available on the Better Buildings Solution Center!

Across more than 50 sessions, over 140 speakers shared their expertise, insight, and experience as they engaged with attendees on subjects like decarbonization, energy efficiency, project financing, water and waste management, communications strategies, and more. Explore the 2024 sessions by topic and catch up on any presentations you might have missed. You can view, download, and filter the presentations by sector and partner.


FEMA Works to Reduce Flood Damages in the Special Flood Hazard Area Through Resistant Building Materials

In March 2024, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International published Standard E3369-24, Standard Specification for Determining the Flood Damage Resistance Rating of Building Materials. The publication of ASTM E3369-24 marks the successful conclusion to more than 10 years of continuous efforts by FEMA to develop ASTM standards to more accurately sample, test and evaluate the flood damage resistance of building materials and assemblies for use below the Base Flood Elevation in accordance with the NFIP.

ASTM E3369-24, when combined with ASTM E3075-24, Standard Test Method for Water Immersion and Drying for Evaluation of Flood Damage Resistance, provide an approach for local officials to assess the flood damage resistance of building materials not currently listed as acceptable in NFIP Technical Bulletin 2, Flood Damage- Resistant Materials Requirements (TB-2), last updated in August 2008.

FEMA is in the process of updating TB-2. A 50% draft was sent out to review on June 3rd to stakeholders at FEMA Headquarters, the regions, and external partners. The more notable updates to TB-2 include:

  • A brief description of the processes used to identify whether materials are flood damage-resistant, including references to new ASTM standards.
  • Updated classification of materials. The previous version of Technical Bulletin 2 (2008), materials were classified on a scale of 1 to 5 according to their ability to resist floodwater or clean water damage, with Class 4 and 5 materials rated as acceptable for flood damage-resistance and Class 1, 2 and 3 materials rated as unacceptable. This version of Technical Bulletin 2 simply rates materials as acceptable or unacceptable for flood damage-resistance.
  • Simplification of information presentation. The existing table listing all flood damage-resistant materials in the current TB-2 (2008) has been broken into two tables – one table for Structural Materials and another table for Finish Materials to make the tables more manageable.

The revised TB also includes:

  • Revised text consistent among all TBs revised in past few years
  • Updated graphics
  • Tables comparing NFIP requirements with related building code and standards requirements has been provided in an appendix

Reference to the two ASTM standards was proposed for commentary of the next ASCE 24 Flood Resistant Design and Construction standard.


The 2024 Building Codes Adoption Tracking (BCAT) Regional Reports are available now!

Example BCAT Report

FEMA develops the BCAT Regional Reports to provide people nationwide with an overview of the natural hazard-resistant building code adoption status in each state and territory within a FEMA region.

The BCAT Reports show an annual percentage of communities adopting natural hazard-resistant building codes in high-risk flood, damaging wind, hurricane wind, tornado and seismic areas.

States and territories are categorized as either “Higher Resistance,” “Moderate Resistance,” or “Lower Resistance,” and a summary of significant building code adoption information is provided.

Read the Overview for more information.

Nationwide map

 Interested in downloading your area’s report?

Click on the line with your state or territory:

Or download them all!

What’s next?

While FEMA releases these eleven reports annually, the National Building Code Adoption Tracking Portal – updated quarterly – allows users to click on any incorporated jurisdiction or search for any census-recognized jurisdiction to view specific data for that jurisdiction’s building and residential code adoption.

You can find data and notes on:

  • The building codes status of jurisdictions.
  • Which hazard risks (flood, hurricane wind, damaging wind, tornado, and seismic) are present?
  • Which states have mutual agreements? Users can view interstate and intrastate mutual aid layers to review a state or territory’s mutual aid laws.

FEMA Releases Publication to Calculate Flood Loads

2345

FEMA released P-2345, Building Designer’s Guide to Calculating Flood Loads Using ASCE 7-22 Supplement 2. This instructional guidance is for design professionals designing buildings for flood loads in accordance with the requirements of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) / Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) standard ASCE 7-22, Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures, Supplement 2 (ASCE 7-22-S2).

In May 2023, ASCE updated ASCE 7, Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures, with new flood load provisions through the release of ASCE 7-22 Supplement 2. The majority of Chapter 5, Flood Loads, and its commentary have been updated. The Flood Hazard Area is increased from the 100-year floodplain to the 500-year floodplain for Risk Categories II, III and IV structures and flood loads are based on the structure’s risk category. The supplement also introduces a new requirement to include relative sea-level change, as it relates to each individual structure, in the design flood depth. The change in approach, along with revised loading equations, is a significant departure from previous versions of ASCE 7 and comes as part of a drive by ASCE to improve building performance and integrate climate data into its standards. The Supplement 2 for Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures (ASCE/SEI 7-22) can be viewed and downloaded from the ASCE Library.

FEMA P-2345 is intended to be a supporting document to ASCE 7-22-S2. The detailed guidance was organized with efficiency in mind and instructs design professionals to assemble data in the order in which it would be gathered and calculated. In addition to the detailed guidance provided on ASCE 7-22-S2, P-2345 contains worked examples, extended guidance on topics such as coastal erosion and calculation of riverine velocities, and optional guidance on exceeding the minimum requirements of ASCE 7-22-S2. The design guide also addresses some aspects of floodplain management that may influence design decisions and thus flood loads. Building officials and floodplain managers may find this guide useful for assisting in the regulation of ASCE 7-22-S2 requirements.

The publication is available to download here: Building Science Resource Library | FEMA.gov 


FEMA Releases the First Two Modules in the Building Code Playbook Video Series

BC Adoption Playbook Cover

 

The Building Code Playbook Video Series offers a more in-depth look at topics covered in the Building Codes Adoption Playbook for Authorities Having Jurisdiction to help communities learn more about building codes and how they can improve their natural hazard resilience.

The video series will provide guidance to Authorities Having Jurisdiction who are considering adoption of the most current model building codes to mitigate damage and loss caused by future natural hazards. By adapting the playbook into a video series, FEMA will be able to better provide general knowledge on the importance of building codes, steps to adopt and enforce them, information on FEMA grants and references to additional resources.

The first two released are:

The video series is anticipated to have nine modules in total, the remainder to be released later this year.


Module 5 of the Building Code Video Series Released!

Screenshot of Video Presenter Shane Crawford

FEMA Building Science recently released Building Codes Video Series Module 5: Tracking Building Code Adoption Tracking Nationwide – a YouTube video providing more information on BCAT. The module also walks viewers through some of the resources that are provided through BCAT.

This video series serves as a companion to the publication titled Building Codes Adoption Playbook for Authorities Having Jurisdiction (FEMA P-2196).

This module provides information on FEMA’s Building Code Adoption Tracking (BCAT) System which is how FEMA tracks building code adoption across the nation. The module also walk viewers through some of the resources that are provided through BCAT. This video series serves as a companion to the publication titled Building Codes Adoption Playbook for Authorities Having Jurisdiction (FEMA P-2196).

Check out the full playlist today – five modules are live and there are more to come!


New FEMA Building Science Resources!

 

For Children:

Building Codes Activity BookThis activity book helps children learn more about how building codes help protect our communities against natural hazards. By using natural hazard-resistant building codes, communities are better prepared for events such as earthquakes, storms, floods, or fires.

FEMA New Release: Children’s Building Codes Activity Sheet – Winter Edition

Cover of Activity Sheet

FEMA’s Building Science Branch (BSB) introduces the “Building Codes Activity Sheet: Winter Edition” to educate children on the role building codes play in safeguarding our communities.  By incorporating building codes into a fun fort-building activity, the kids work together to ensure their fort’s durability against the various elements. This emphasizes the message that hazard-resistant building codes help prepare communities against events such as earthquakes, storms, floods, and fires. 

The activity sheet follows two kids building a snow fort and discussing different construction and reinforcement strategies. It includes other activities such as snow globe designing, match-the-snowmen, and a maze. These activities entertain and educate children on the practical application of building codes in different situations.

BSB is excited to release this activity book for children, which aims to empower them to explore the role of building codes and relate them to real-world scenarios. The need to reach a younger stakeholder audience was evident through community events attended by FEMA and educators’ requests to use it in classrooms. BSB hopes to continue adding additional materials for children in the future to expand knowledge on the importance of building codes. 

FEMA has several resources available on each hazard discussed in the activity book. Check them out at: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/risk-management/building-science

Earthquake:

FEMA P-366, Hazus Estimated Annualized Earthquake Losses for the United StatesFEMA P-366 highlights the impacts of both high hazard and high exposure on losses caused by earthquakes. The study is based on loss estimates generated by Hazus, a geographic information system (GIS)-based earthquake loss estimation tool developed by FEMA.

Wildfire:

Decreasing Risk of Structure-to-Structure Fire Spread in a WildfireThis document provides recommendations to contractors and designers on new building construction that may prevent or slow the spread of a fire from structure-to-structure in densely-spaced neighborhoods.

Homeowner’s Guide to Reducing Risk of Structure Ignition from WildfireThis document provides homeowners with steps they can take now to decrease the likelihood their homes will ignite due to direct flame contact, ember intrusion, or hot gases from wildfires at various physical vulnerabilities throughout the exterior envelope of the house. 

Wildfire-Resilient Detailing, Joint Systems and Interfaces of Building ComponentsThis document provides information on ways to reduce the vulnerability of residential structures to wildfire ignition due to windborne embers, hot gases, and flames penetrating common detailing joints and building component interfaces that exist throughout the exterior envelope of a building.

Homeowner’s Guide to Reducing Wildfire Risk Through Defensible SpaceThis document provides homeowners with steps they can take now to protect their homes from loss or damage from wildfires due to vulnerabilities introduced by surrounding landscaping and other exterior features within the homeowner’s property.

Homeowner’s Guide to Risk Reduction and Remediation of Residential Smoke DamageThis document provides recommendations to homeowners for pre-wildfire measures to help reduce the risk of smoke damage and do-it-yourself (DIY) steps that homeowners can take to remediate light to moderate smoke damage.

Marshall Fire MAT: Best Practices for Wildfire-Resilient Subdivision PlanningThis document provides builders/contractors, planning professionals, HOAs, and local land resource managers with information about wildfire resiliency planning and open-space management policies, best practices, and procedures at subdivision- and neighborhood-scales.

Marshall Fire MAT: Mitigation Strategies to Address Multi-Hazard Events: This document is intended to help planners, developers, local land management personnel and private property owners identify how wildfires interact with other natural hazards and mitigate the impact of these multi-hazard events.

Hurricane:

Hurricane Ida DRRA Section 1206 Implementation Case Study: This study reviews the implementation of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) Section 1206 Policy implemented after Hurricane Ida in Louisiana (DR-4611) and shares the lessons learned for future state, local, tribal, and territorial governments looking to implement this type of project.

Building the Case for Open Space (Foundations)This guidance compares the two predominant construction foundation systems available in South Louisiana and provides greater detail regarding their costs, impacts, and advantages.

New Videos:

New Building Code Adoption Playbook Videos

New On-Demand Training for Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards


FEMA releases Third Edition of the Building Codes Toolkit for Homeowners and Occupants

The Building Codes Toolkit offers basic guidance and tools to help homeowners and occupants learn about building codes and how they can make their homes more resilient against natural hazards.

This version of the FEMA Building Codes Toolkit includes updates to documents from the previous editions of the Toolkit, as well as new documents that will help readers better understand building codes and how they work.

The Toolkit can be read as one publication or a series of separate documents to give readers information specific to their needs.

Step-by-step guidance and background information are provided to help readers make informed decisions about building codes. Readers will also learn the importance of building codes and how to ensure they are incorporated into their building or project.

The FEMA Building Codes Toolkit can help homeowners and occupants become one step closer to living in a safer and more resilient community.

Learn more about how you can support the adoption and use of natural hazard-resistant building codes and standards: Building Science Resource Library | FEMA.gov


Catalog of FEMA Building Science Resources

6th Edition – FEMA P-787 

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


Using Land Use and Building Codes to Increase Resilience Webinar

Combining land use planning and development decisions with strong building codes can reduce vulnerabilities to buildings and infrastructure as well as save lives. 

Have you considered why your community and its buildings looks the way it does?  It’s because of plans, policies, and regulations that govern where (guided by land use planning) and how (guided by building codes) we build.  This webinar outlines the essential role that land use planning and building codes play in reducing disaster risk.

Watch the webinar “Where and How We Build: Using Land Use and Building Codes to Increase Resilience.


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

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

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.


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

EPA’s web tool, called “ECHO Notify,” 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.


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

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.


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