Building Codes & Principles


Benefits of Building Codes

Last year, officials from the White House, FEMA, state and local government, and private sector entities announced the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes. The initiative provided incentives and support for communities to adopt modern building codes.

FEMA also announced its Building Codes Strategy. To help with these efforts, FEMA published the Building Codes Adoption Playbook for Authorities Having Jurisdiction which 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.

FEMA has also made recent updates to the National Hazards Risk Index, including new data and information to improve the user experience and risk knowledge about floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. These changes will help inform the community’s decision-making as they create hazard mitigation plans and select resilience-related projects. All these resources were made in the hopes that they would help to protect communities and individuals from disasters in the future.


 

FEMA Study Highlights Benefits on Adopting Higher Building Code Standards

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

FEMA 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.

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


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).

 


Building Codes Toolkit 

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.

 


American Society of Civil Engineers

 

Comparing National Flood Insurance Program requirements and “Higher Standards” in Building Codes

FEMA has released two technical fact sheets summarizing the flood-resistant provisions of the 2021 International Codes (I-Codes) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 24-14, Flood Resistant Design and Construction, that are “higher standards” and that are more specific than NFIP requirements.

Link to two fact sheets:

These fact sheets summarize the flood-resistant provisions of the 2021 International Codes (I-Codes) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 24-14, Flood Resistant Design and Construction, that are “higher standards” and that are more specific than National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements.

The first fact sheet provides a detailed comparison of NFIP and the I-Code “higher standards”.  The second fact sheet provides a summary comparison of the NFIP and more significant I-Code “higher standards”.

This fact sheet summarizes the flood-resistant provisions of the 2021 I-Codes and ASCE 24-14, Flood Resistant Design and Construction.  The provisions listed have “higher standards” and are more specific than NFIP requirements.

A table in the document compares NFIP building and structure requirements to the flood-resistant provisions of the 2021 I-Codes and the ASCE referenced standards.

The table’s left column summarizes the NFIP requirements for buildings and structures cited in Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations Part 60 for land management and use.  The table’s right column summarizes the provisions of the I-Codes and referenced standards that are either “higher standards” or more specific than the corresponding NFIP requirement.

The primary codes and standards referenced in the fact sheet’s table are the 2021 International Building Code (IBC), 2021 International Residential Code (IRC), 2021 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) and ASCE 24-14, Flood Resistant Design and Construction.

 


Reducing Flood Losses Through the International Codes –

Coordinating Building Codes and Floodplain Management Regulations, 5th Edition

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.
 
 

 

Important Links

ICC – International Code Council 

FLASH – Federal Alliance for Safe Homes 

EERI – Earthquake Engineering Research Institute 

ISO – ISO Mitigation 

IBHS – Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety 

 
 

Building Codes Strategy

The FEMA Building Code Strategy organizes and prioritizes FEMA activities to advance the adoption and enforcement of hazard-resistant building codes and standards for FEMA programs.  It promotes integrating building codes and standards across FEMA, strengthening nationwide capability and expertise, and driving public action.

The Building Code Strategy is comprised of three goals and 14 objectives that focus on:

Leveraging partnerships to promote current hazard-resistant building codes

Understanding stakeholder needs to identify opportunities that advance building code adoption and enforcement

Amplifying climate science messaging to increase public demand for building codes and standards

Targeting building code adoption outreach to the most vulnerable communities achieve a more resilient nation

Link to FEMA for detailed infoBuilding Codes Strategy | FEMA.gov

 


Resilient Building Codes Toolkit Resource

HUD added a new page dedicated to Resilient Building Codes and it is now available.  The webpage includes links to the newly released Resilient Building Codes Toolkit and will provide access to the recordings of the Resilient Building Codes Webinar series that took place in Spring 2022.

Why Focus on Building Codes?

Building codes underpin the key health and safety aspects of our built environment.  They are a combination of operational expectations and physical requirements, with variations in interpretation and application based on geographies.  They are governed at the state and local level but nearly always reference international and national codes and standards.  Climate change is a new risk that is not commonly addressed in existing codes and standards.

As Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) and CDBG Mitigation (MIT) grantees look to build back from disasters in more resilient ways and seek to mitigate damage from future hazards, understanding the role building codes can play in meeting their goals should not be underestimated.  The Resilient Building Codes Toolkit and Webinar Series are meant to guide the reader to determine what steps make the most sense for their communities to pursue to achieve resilience.

On the resource page:

  • The full Resilient Building Codes Toolkit, including individual links to each document contained within the toolkit
  • The webinar series recordings:
    • Making the Business Case – recorded on April 28, 2022
    • A Practitioner’s Guide – recorded on May 19, 2022
    • Action at the Community Level – recorded on May 26, 2022

Link to View the Resilient Building Codes Page.

 


FEMA Releases Resources for the Wind Resistant Provisions of the 2021 International Codes

The provisions of the International Codes aim to ensure that structures can adequately resist wind forces.  FEMA has contributed to the development of the International Codes since the first edition was published in 2000, up to and including the latest 2021 edition.

FEMA is pleased to announce three new resources that summarize the wind resistant provisions of the 2021 International Codes.  These documents provide guidance on the wind resistant provisions in the building codes for property owners, engineers, design professionals, building codes officials and the general public.

For more of FEMA’s wind resistant building code resources, visit: Building Code Documents

  


 

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

The 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.

 

 

 


ASCE Library

This library includes all versions of Flood Resistant Design and Construction, ASCE Standard 24.  This Standard provides minimum requirements for flood-resistant design and construction of structures located in flood hazard areas.

Link to the ASCE library website for the latest policy and guidance:

 


 

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