Latest IBHS Report Finds Uneven Building Standards in Hurricane Prone States

April 11, 2018

There’s been little progress in strengthening codes to ensure safety and community resilience, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) latest report on the residential building code systems in 18 hurricane-prone states.

The 2018 edition of Rating the States follows a disastrous year of storms in 2017.

This image made from video shows several damaged houses by Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Ian Brown)

“Mother Nature delivered a serious and costly beating to the US and its territories during 2017, with 25 million people impacted by catastrophic hurricanes and many more by other severe weather events,” said Julie Rochman, CEO and President, IBHS. “Bad weather is not new, and will not stop. But what can and must stop is the continued construction, and inevitable destruction, of weak, vulnerable homes built – and too often rebuilt – in questionable locations. We must build stronger, to code standards proven to reduce risk, and stop allowing today’s weather events to become painful, expensive disasters for homeowners, communities, states and the entire nation.”

The newest edition of Rating the States assesses the progress of 18 hurricane-prone coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast in strengthening their residential building code systems. IBHS issued prior versions of this landmark report in 2012 and 2015.

Like the 2015 edition, the new report finds that most states with strong building code systems in place at the time of the original 2012 report remain committed to building safety. These states have updated their codes to recent model code editions, or are in the process of doing so, and they have maintained effective enforcement systems.

“States with strong, updated codes saw stunning proof this year in Florida that updated, well-enforced building codes have led to the construction of homes and buildings that can stand up to fierce hurricane winds. It can’t be any clearer: these codes work,” Rochman said. “Unfortunately, many states took no action to improve their code systems, and a few have weaker systems in place now than they had in 2015.”

According to the latest report, research confirms the value of investing in property loss mitigation. A report by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report, society saves $6 for every $1 spent through federal mitigation grants, and $4 for every $1 in private sector investments that exceed select provisions in model building codes.

IBHS believes codes that are poorly enforced, lagging current standards, or simply nonexistent at a statewide level create a regrettable set of circumstances and unnecessary hazards. Benefits of a strong, well-enforced and routinely updated code include:

  • Giving residents a sense of security about the safety and soundness of their buildings.
  • Offering protection to first responders during and after fires and other disaster events.
  • Promoting a level, predictable playing field for designers, builders, and suppliers.
  • Reflecting recent design and technology innovation, often incorporating newly identified best practices and cost efficiencies, and
  • Reducing the amount of solid waste in landfills produced by homes that have been damaged or destroyed during disasters.

In developing its unique Rating the States report, IBHS looks at 47 important data points to assess the effectiveness of the states’ residential building code programs, including code adoption and enforcement; building official training and certification; and licensing requirements for construction trades. The report also offers a clear roadmap with specific details for states to follow as they seek to update and improve their code systems.

The full 2018 Rating the States report with state-specific information and the original 2015 and 2012 Rating the States reports are available on the IBHS Rating the States web page. For additional information about building codes, visit IBHS’ Building Code web page.

Below are the 2018 state scores, based on a 100-point scale, where 100 is the best available score:

2018 and 2015 Rating the States Scores

STATE 2018 SCORE (NEW) 2015 SCORE
Florida 95 94
Virginia 94 95
South Carolina 92 92
New Jersey 90 89
Connecticut 89 88
Rhode Island 87 87
North Carolina 83 84
Louisiana 83 82
Massachusetts 81 79
Maryland 78 78
Georgia 68 69
New York 64 56
Maine 54 55
New Hampshire 46 48
Texas 34 36
Mississippi 28 28
Alabama 27 26
Delaware 17 17