This is the third study the IBHS has published since 2012
On June 1, the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins. With the toll caused by last year’s destructive season still fresh in many homeowners’ minds, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has released a new study, entitled “Rating the States,” which assesses the building code systems in 18 of the most hurricane-prone states in the U.S.
“Mother Nature delivered a serious and costly beating to the U.S. and its territories during 2017, with 25 million people impacted by catastrophic hurricanes and many more by other severe weather events,” said Debra Ballen, IBHS general counsel and senior vice president of public policy.
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.”
What the “Rating the States” study looks for
Following in the footsteps of previous Rate the States studies published in 2012 and 2015, the 2018 report takes a look at 18 hurricane-prone coastal states from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up the Atlantic Seaboard. It then assesses the progress made in each state with respect to their improvements and progress in strengthening their residential building code systems.
According to its findings, IBHS determined that those states with the strongest building codes as of the first report in 2012, continue to be committed to building safety.
“States with strong, updated codes saw stunning proof last 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,” Ballen said. “Unfortunately, many states have taken no action to improve their code systems, and a few have weaker systems in place now than they had in 2015.”
Ballen added that the 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. In comparison, benefits of implementing strong, well-enforced and routinely updated codes include the following:
- 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.
- Reducing the amount of solid waste in landfills produced by homes that have been damaged or destroyed during disasters.
A look at Massachusetts’ ranking
Of the 18 states included in this year’s study, Massachusetts ranked 9th , earning 81 out of 100 possible points. According to the IBHS, Massachusetts’ score this year was a two-point improvement from the 2015 report, when the Commonwealth recevied 79 points.
In comparison, the state with the highest score this year was Florida with 95 points. Following Florida was Virginia (94), South Carolina (92) and New Jersey (90). In New England, Connecticut ranked the highest this year with 89 points followed by Rhode Island (87). Both Maine (54) and New Hampshire (46), two states with no mandatory statewide building codes, finished towards the other end of the 2018 rankings.
The 2018 IBHS report indicated “Massachusetts performed well.” The report notes that in 2017, the Commonwealth adopted the ninth edition of its statewide building code based on the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). “While this move is positive overall, the now-current Massachusetts building code—either through error or a simple failure to update—has amendments to wind design requirements and exposure category classifications that are below specifications for high wind and coastal areas.”
The following is a complete ranking of the states included in the study:
More information on the study direct from the IBHS
In developing its comprehensive Rating the States report, IBHS assessed 47 important data points to address the effectiveness of the states’ residential building code programs. This included 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, as well as the original 2015 and 2012 Rating the States reports, are available on the IBHS Rating the States website. For additional information about building codes, please visit IBHS’ Building Code website.