FEMA just released its landmark study, “Building Codes Save: A National Study,” an in-depth look at the quantified benefits—avoided losses to buildings and building contents—from adopting the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). As the frequency of natural hazards continue to increase, this study reaffirms that building codes continue to be the best first line of defense. Alarmingly, the FEMA study found that 65 percent of counties, cities, and towns across the U.S. have not adopted modern building codes, only 50 percent of cumulative post-2000 construction adhered to the I-Codes, and 30 percent of new construction is occurring in communities with no codes at all or codes that are more than 20 years outdated. Based on a database of more than 18 million actual buildings constructed since the inception of the I-Codes in 2000, the frequency of hazard events across the country, and the contents and edition of the IBC and IRC in effect in each locality where post-2000 construction took place, the study found:
- The IRC and IBC provided more than $27 billion in cumulative mitigation benefits against flood, hurricane wind, and earthquake hazards from 2000 to 2016. These benefits could have been doubled if all post 2000 construction adhered to the I-Codes.
- If construction continues at the pace the study observed and if the proportion of that construction adhering to the I-Codes is consistent with the trend the study identifies, the I-Codes could help communities avoid $132-$171 billion in cumulative losses through 2040.
- If all new buildings across the U.S. were built to modern editions of the I-Codes, the country would save more than $600 billion by 2060.