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FEMA Recommends I-Codes For National Flood Insurance Program

This contributed column is sponsored by Business Facilities LiveXchange.

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood plain management report says current model building codes, such as the International Codes (I-Codes), have flood provisions that are consistent with NFIP requirements for buildings and structures. The I-Codes, developed by the U.S.-based International Code Council, streamline building safety compliance and facilitate trade around world. They are a complete set of consistent and coordinated codes. The I-Codes are applied in all 50 states at the state or local level. Federal agencies including the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the U.S. Forest Service also rely on the I-Codes for safe and affordable building regulations.

The NFIP report states that model codes are effective in reducing flood-related damages because of specific mitigation provisions required for compliance. This resource will help floodplain managers and code officials understand impacts of the new statutory potential future affiliation between building codes and the NFIP, according to FEMA. The document provides findings of regulatory, financial and economic impacts that would likely occur to homeowners and government entities if adopted, and the feasibility and effectiveness in reducing future flood damage.

“ICC Members, and all who participate in our code development process, can take pride in the acknowledgment that this national report confirms the ability of the I-Codes to reduce property losses and provide public safety,” said ICC Board of Directors President Stephen Jones, CBO.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance legislation passed in 2012 required FEMA to research and report on the advisability of including building codes in the NFIP flood plain criteria. ICC worked with former-Congresswoman Judy Biggert and House and Senate staff to include the report requirement in the bill.

“This report validates the need for the development, adoption, and enforcement of construction codes and standards to help protect communities from floods and other natural disasters,” said ICC CEO Dominic Sims, CBO. “Every dollar invested in prevention means lower cost recovery from natural disasters for taxpayers, long-term financial benefits and improved public safety for communities.”

The report to Congress, Including Building Codes in the National Flood Insurance Program, includes several major findings:

  • Current model building codes, such as the I-Codes, have flood provisions that are consistent with NFIP requirements for buildings and structures, and are effective in reducing flood-related damage because of the specific mitigation provisions required for compliance.
  • NFIP communities that currently do not have building codes would be more affected by inclusion of codes into the NFIP. Benefits of these actions and investments are abundant, and include: generally increased property values, reduced losses during flood and other hazard events which reduce insurance rates over a 5- to 10-year period, and a more actuarially sound NFIP and insurance industry.
  • The most significant benefits would likely arise from the required added elevation above flood levels for dwellings in certain locations.
  • Insurance losses would be reduced for the properties required to comply with building codes because those properties would sustain less damage.
  • Enforcing building codes as part of the NFIP would only affect new structures and substantially damaged or substantially improved structures required to be brought into compliance with the requirements for new structures.

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About The Author

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager. In September 2012, she transitioned to a new role dedicated to developing online content for Business Facilities and Today's Facility Manager. Schwartz can be reached at [email protected]

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