In the realm of property insurance, the enforcement of building codes and adherence to the manufacturers’ specifications of building material installation are not just regulatory concerns; they are critical issues impacting both safety and insurance. This is highlighted by recent news reports coming from the tragic tornados in Tennessee.  The by-line to the story, National Weather Service Finds Homes Improperly Secured to Foundations Before Tornadoes in Tennessee, says it all:

Inspectors found that the homes were attached to the foundations with only nails and construction adhesive tape.

Building codes are established to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of occupants. They set minimum standards for construction, electrical systems, plumbing, and fastening of structures to foundations. When these codes are rigorously enforced and inspected by architects, engineers, or government building inspectors, codes significantly reduce the risk of structural failures and other safety issues. For property owners, compliance with building codes can lead to fewer insurance claims, potentially lower premiums, and a safer living or working environment.

I have written about this topic in “Do We Need Better Building Codes, or Better Enforcement?” In that post, I made reference to the Federal Alliance For Safe Homes. This organization published a paper, Why Americans Aren’t Concerned About Building Codes (even though they should be), which warns that what happened in Tennessee is common and that political leaders typically do something about the grave issue only after a tragedy occurs:

If building codes are the foundation of disaster resilience, and they are, then why don’t consumers demand them when they buy or build homes? Why isn’t building code status a top feature on real estate sites like Trulia or Zillow? Why do some, but not all, local and state leaders adopt and enforce codes to ensure the safety, welfare, and resiliency of the communities they serve?

These are the perennial questions posed by the disaster safety and resilience movement because we know that one cannot reliably protect families and homes without the use of current codes and standards. It is impossible.

State and local leaders, somewhat understandably, prioritize short-term interests and needs that overcome the case for long-term investment in building codes and effective enforcement. But those decisions leave homeowners, private insurers, and taxpayers to pay the price when buildings are constructed without minimum safety standards.

Unknowing consumers are impacted most of all as they pay the price through the unfair burden of higher taxes and insurance premiums. This is especially unfortunate as these codes are not ‘super codes’ or even ‘code-plus’ recommendations. The often-overlooked codes represent the minimum consensus provisions that the engaged experts have decided are necessary for the construction of a compliant building. And yet, with alarming frequency, the codes are weakened or made less stringent by authorities having jurisdiction at the state or local level. In nearly all cases, the homebuyer is wholly unaware of these policy decisions that negatively affect future safety and resilience in a disaster. The human and economic consequences for these policy decisions are visible when flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or geologic events like earthquakes destroy homes. Tragically, the public awareness of the connection between codes and building performance nearly always comes after the fact.

How the History of Insurance Repeats Itself and Is Full of Modern Lessons Which Need to Be Acted Upon noted thatinsurers will consider insuring in areas where the individual policyholders and the community help mitigate and prevent losses from occurring.” It provided a current example of how California officials are engaged in making and enforcing laws to prevent and mitigate wildfire losses.

The enforcement of building codes that strengthen and harden structures is more than a regulatory issue; it’s a commitment to resilience and community safety. Imagine the transformative impact when homes and structures are built and maintained with the utmost care and adherence to these codes and specifications. The stories of buildings standing firm against the fiercest storms, sheltering families and memories within their steadfast walls, are not just tales of survival but of triumph. When a community unites to build legally and robustly, it’s not just about following laws; it’s about forging a legacy of strength, safety, and common sense risk management. We have the power to turn the tide against preventable damage. It just takes commitment and discipline. It starts by alerting our leaders that this is an important issue that cannot be ignored.

Thought For The Day

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

—Margaret Mead