The Role of Building Codes in Natural Disaster Resilience | Property & Casualty

The Role of Building Codes in Natural Disaster Resilience | Property & Casualty

The rise of natural disasters is alarming. They are a significant threat to lives and property as they are becoming more frequent and intense. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a staggering 363 severe weather and climate events since 1980, each causing over $1 billion in losses. This has contributed to an astonishing $2.59 trillion in damages. The gravity of these numbers can't be ignored.

Following building codes allow property owners to safeguard their investment and minimize the impact of natural disasters. With resilient construction practices and a good grasp of building codes, commercial property owners can accurately gauge potential risks and effectively mitigate damages. Looking ahead, it’s estimated that by 2040, building codes are projected to prevent a staggering $132 billion in property-related losses.

Current Natural Disaster Patterns

The occurrence of disasters can vary greatly based on the geographical location of your operations. For example, the Gulf Coast region is prone to hurricanes, while the West Coast suffers from wildfires. Regardless, every state is impacted by various weather and climate events.

Wildfires & Droughts

The Lahaina fire in Hawaii has been officially recognized by the U.S. Fire Administration as the most lethal in over a century, resulting in the destruction or damage of over 2,000 structures. In recent years, the West Coast has experienced many record-setting drought and wildfire seasons characterized by unprecedented records, resulting in thousands of fires and the destruction of millions of acres. Many studies link the drought and wildfire surge to climate change (e.g., temperature increases, soil moisture decreases, drying of organic matter in forests). Climate experts anticipate drought and wildfire seasons to become longer and more severe.

Hurricanes, Tropical Storms & Flooding

The East Coast has experienced a growing frequency of hurricanes, tropical storms and severe flooding.  Atlantic hurricane seasons have recorded a historically high increase in both storm occurrences and severity. Several Category 4 and 5 hurricanes (e.g., Florence, Irma, Michael, Harvey, Ida) have caused significant destruction due to extensive flooding and powerful winds. According toNOAA forecasts, rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures will further intensify wind speeds and precipitation associated with hurricanes. Consequently, storms making landfall are expected to cause even greater damage.

Tornadoes & Winter Storms

Each year, hundreds of tornadoes terrorize the Great Plains states, commonly referred to as Tornado Alley. Recent research indicates that the frequency and intensity of tornadoes are escalating in areas beyond Tornado Alley. Since 2000, states such as Alabama and Kentucky have reported a twofold increase in tornadoes annually. The predictability of tornado season (March-May) has significantly declined as these destructive events are occurring both earlier and later than normal. Additionally, losses from secondary perils (e.g., hail, snow) have seen a substantial surge over the last 50 years.

How Building Codes Can Safeguard Your Property

Given the rising prevalence and threats natural disasters pose to buildings, commercial property owners should consider the following measures to protecttheir structures.

  • Building codes are created to establish guidelines that promote the safety and protection of structures from potential hazards. For example, wildfire-prone regions require the usage of fire-resistant roof materials. Similarly,  hurricane-prone locations necessitate the utilization of sturdy beams and joists to maintain structural integrity amid strong winds.
  • There is a distinction in building codes between varying levels of destruction, ranging from moderate damage and complete devastation. Most building codes are based on the International Code Council’s International Codes (I-Codes).
  • A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) study found Florida and California property owners who adopt and enforce modern, hazard-resistant building codes can expect future annual savings of $1 billion.
  • According to FEMA, the implementation of modern building codes can prevent annual flooding ($484 million), earthquakes ($60 million) and hurricane-related wind ($1.1 billion) damages for structures built after 2000. It’s estimated that for each dollar invested in building code construction can lead to $11 in disaster repair and recovery expense savings.
  • Enforcement of building codes can present financial advantages for commercial property owners. Underwriting experts recommend that commercial property owners in communities with strictly enforced building codes may be eligible for insurance premium discounts. Additionally, implementing appropriate protective measures can potentially lead to reduced claim expenses.
  • According to a Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania study, the adoption of statewide building codes across Florida, known as the Florida Building Code (FBC), has been linked to a 72% reduction in property damage from wind-related events. The study also revealed a cost-benefit, indicating that every dollar invested in FBC compliance influences a reduction in property losses by an estimated range of $2 to $8.
  • To safeguard structures against natural hazards, it’s important to address inadequate building code adoption and enforcement by municipalities. Taking proactive measures, such as voluntarily adopting I-Codes and adhering to disaster-specific IBHS structural safety measures, can mitigate potential risks. Additionally, collaborating with reputable contractors will help ensure proper construction practices are applied to your property.

We’re Here to Help Protect Your Property

As natural disasters continue to wreak havoc and cause extensive damage, it becomes increasingly crucial for commercial property owners to prioritize adherence to building codes. These guides can effectively safeguard your structure and minimize potential losses amid unpredictable weather and climate events. If you have questions about commercial property insurance or need expert advice on how to mitigate risks for your property, connect with a member of our team.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.

The Role of Building Codes in Natural Disaster Resilience | Property & Casualty the top natural disaster trends that you should keep an eye on and the role building codes play in safeguarding against devastating damages.2023-08-25T17:00:00-05:00Discover the top natural disaster trends that you should keep an eye on and the role building codes play in safeguarding against devastating damages.Risk MitigationReal EstateProperty & Casualty InsuranceYes