Slow Code Adoptions Cost the U.S. Billions, Studies Suggest

Modern building codes could save the nation from spending more than $1.6 billion annually on losses from floods, earthquakes, and hurricane winds—if only governments would adopt them, a new study from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates.

Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study finds that, between now and 2040, cities and counties with modern building codes would avoid at least $32 billion in losses from natural disasters when compared to jurisdictions without building codes.

The problem is that 65% of counties, cities, and towns across the U.S. today still haven’t adopted modern codes, FEMA said in a Nov. 19 news release. Only 50% of cumulative post-2000 construction adheres to the I-Codes, and 30% of new construction is occurring in communities with no codes at all or codes that are more than 20 years outdated.

“Projecting forward, bases on an average of 577,000 new buildings per year, approximately 13.9 million buildings will be added to the U.S. inventory between 2016 and 2040,” the report concluded. “About 70% (approximately 9.7 million) will be built to I-Codes or similar codes. … The cumulative savings will be $132 billion.”

In a news release trumpeting FEMA’s report, the International Code Council (ICC) noted that the National Institute of Building Sciences estimates that modern codes provide $11 in mitigation savings for every $1 invested.

“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,” the ICC said.