IBHS strongly supports the statewide adoption of building codes and standards, strong local enforcement of the codes, and training and licensing of building officials, builders and contractors. Building codes are sets of regulations, standards, and guidelines adopted by states and local communities to promote the construction of safe and durable structures. Building codes help safeguard people and property from hazards such as fires and electrical malfunctions, as well as severe weather and natural disasters.
Building codes in Florida, for example, play an essential role in reducing the threat of damage caused by hurricanes and tropical storms. Following Hurricane Charley in 2004, IBHS conducted a study that showed a 40 percent reduction in the frequency and a 60 percent reduction in the severity of hurricane-related damage to homes built to stronger building code standards. Building codes provide benefits beyond keeping people and property safe. Studies have found that investing in stronger building can save the homeowner and taxpayer significantly during a hazard. Recent research shows that improvements to the Florida building code have reduced windstorm losses by up to 72% and that for every $1 of additional construction costs $6 in losses were saved.
More recently, Hurricane Irma provided a real-world test of the strong statewide building code now in Florida, with homes built to modern Florida building codes faring much better than those built before major code changes were implemented. In other areas of the country, like California, building codes focus on the threat of earthquakes and wildfires. Unfortunately, many states have not prioritized adopting modern codes or allow local jurisdictions to “opt-out” of certain sections of the code. This piecemeal approach among states and jurisdictions can lead to compromised building safety standards, varying enforcement regimes, and unpredictable permitting processes. When entire communities utilize a common set of base rules for construction, it leads to safer buildings and more predicable construction practices.
Federal laws have provided—and can do more to provide—financial incentives to states to improve and enforce modern building codes. Several proposals have been considered by the U.S. Congress, including incentivizing states to adopt statewide building codes in exchange for additional federal funds both before and after a disaster. States that do not have statewide building codes may risk losing certain federal post-disaster funds.
A final critical element to ensuring building codes function properly is proper enforcement. A building code is only effective if there is enforcement and inspection to verify that construction is completed according to the code requirements. Ideally, states provide certification and training parameters for code officials, but it is up to local governments to ensure building inspectors have the resources necessary to fulfill their responsibilities, including having enough inspectors to meet demand.
Current State Building Codes
Click on a state to see what building codes are currently in effect.
Rating the States Report
Since 2012, IBHS has published a state-by-state assessment of building code systems for the 18 states most vulnerable to catastrophic hurricanes along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico. The report is intended to focus attention on the need for strong, statewide building codes and identify steps states can take to improve their building code systems. Visit the Rating the States page to view the reports and learn more about the findings of these studies.
Construction standards specify the accepted design, installation and maintenance practices for the materials and systems used in construction. Strong construction standards support safe, economic, and quality construction and contribute to improved disaster resiliency.
IBHS conducts scientific research to improve building material performance, systems and construction standards. Recent standards testing includes asphalt shingle performance research and continuous load path testing. Learn more about IBHS’ Research.