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National building code proposal introduced in Congress

Sun May 12th, 2013 on     Homeowners Insurance,    

Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart believes the country should catch up with his home state when it comes to building codes. The congressman is the chief House sponsor of HR 1878, the Safe Building Code Incentive Act of 2013. The bill was also introduced in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Proponents hope that the fourth time is the charm.

Perhaps Hurricane Sandy will be the real charm. The hurricane-turned-superstorm wreaked havoc in states that are not quite as prepared as we are. Regardless of why it passes, the forces behind the bill — including property insurance companies — will be relieved when the deed is done.

The bill offers an incentive rather than a mandate for states to adopt a uniform building code. Each state that enacts and enforces a model building code will receive an additional 4 percent in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Please note that under this plan the federal government will establish a model building code that the states will then adopt, and, in turn, the states will encourage counties and municipalities to adopt the model code. There is no penalty for non-compliance.

Well, in truth, the penalty for non-compliance is having cities wiped out when a natural disaster hits. Florida went through that with Hurricane Andrew — though it bears mentioning that the statute detailing Florida’s building code went into effect some 15 years before Andrew hit. 

National code organizations would set the basic standards laid out in the uniform code. The code organizations already exist — no new investment needed — and regularly review new research, new technology and freshly gathered data to update the model code. The model code will serve as the baseline, allowing states to expand it to meet their particular needs. 

A companion bill was itnroduced in the Senate. No hearings or votes have been scheduled yet.

Source: Business Insurance, “Safe building code legislation introduced in House, Senate,” Mark A. Hofmann, May 9, 2013

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