Insurers Call on N.C. to Strengthen Coastal Building Code Requirements

September 11, 2007

In testimony today before the North Carolina Building Code Council, the American Insurance Association urged that stronger hurricane resistant construction standards be required for all areas of the coast vulnerable to hurricane-force winds.

“Adopting and enforcing all building code provisions to protect consumers and minimize hurricane damage in areas at great risk is one positive and essential step policymakers can take to help sustain insurance availability and more resilient communities,” said David Unnewehr, AIA assistant vice president. “One can look no further than the areas of the Gulf Coast impacted by the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, where communities and insurance markets are still struggling toward recovery, to understand the importance of making sure homes are fully built to code standards and with wind borne debris protections.”

In recent years North Carolina has made some progress by extending wind borne debris requirements for the state’s barrier islands and new homes within 1,500 feet of the coast. However, communities outside of this line, i.e., all areas of the coast where wind speeds in excess of 110 mph can be expected, remain under-protected.

If North Carolina continues to exempt wind borne debris protections in the International Building and Residential Codes for some high hazard areas along or near the coast, there is greater risk of structural failure and interior damage, not to mention the threat to personal safety.

“The North Carolina Code Council has often expressed skepticism about the damage and loss savings from adherence to strong hurricane resistant standards,” Unnewehr said. “However, the 2004-2005 hurricanes provided concrete evidence of reduced frequency of hurricane claims and much lower amount of damage per home when build to modern wind standards. Unfortunately, coastal North Carolina is increasingly being perceived as an ‘outlier’ not only in its geographic exposure to hurricanes, but also in its failure to adopt the International Code’s wind provisions in all required geographic areas.

“The time is now for the state’s Code Council to make sure that any future development in coastal counties is built to state of the art standards for wind protection, a step that will enhance personal safety and reduce property loss,” said Unnewehr. “Clearly, this will be an excellent investment not only in community resilience but in a stronger, more competitive insurance market that benefits the state’s consumers.”

Source: American Insurance Association

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