Bernstein & Feldman, P.A.

Providing Personal Counsel
And Representation For Over
30 Years

Safe Building Code bill could gain ground in post-Sandy Congress

The insurance industry has long lobbied for national building code standards, and the fight has finally come to the 113th Congress. Bills were introduced in the House and the Senate recently that would encourage, not mandate, states to adopt a best-practices, state-wide building code.

The measure is similar to Maryland's approach to having counties or municipalities adopt building codes that meet certain standards. Congress would ask that states adopt (and then enforce) a model building code -- for residential and commercial properties -- that meets minimum "life-safety standards" defined by a code organization. States that comply will then qualify for a 4 percent increase in federal disaster relief funds.

(If the concept of a "code organization" is a little foreign, you are not alone. There are organizations out there made up of industry experts that review national standards against new research and technology. They then recommend amendments to the code in question. In this case, the building code would incorporate the minimum acceptable criteria for design, construction and maintenance gleaned from experts' knowledge and experience.) 

The nationally recognized standards would serve as a baseline below which state codes could not fall. States would have to make sure their codes are in keeping with the most recent national standards and could not go longer than six years without updating their codes.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act debuted, in fact, in 2007, with the 110th Congress. Insurance companies feel strongly enough about the measure that they have found a sponsor in each house during each session since. What proponents hope now is that the devastation wrought by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy as well as floods in other parts of the country will convince lawmakers that national standards are imperative.

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