Baldwin County, Alabama adopts building codes to increase the resilience of the county and residents
Given the hazards experienced by homeowners across the Gulf Coast in recent years and escalating insurance premiums, much attention has been given to construction practices and how to strengthen homes and reduce the risk to life and property. The Coastal Code Supplement of the 2012 International Residential Code incorporates standards to make new construction more resilient to storms. One of the most important items in the new code is a sealed roof deck. The Institute for Business and Home Safety has conducted research proving that the roof is one of the most vulnerable parts of a home. The most common cause of water damage during a hurricane is roof covering damage and subsequent water infiltration. For approximately $700, a homeowner can drastically reduce this risk by installing a sealed roof deck during new construction or the process of reroofing. The 2012 Coastal Code Supplement, however, has not yet been widely adopted by Alabama communities.
In April 2012, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium provided funding to the City of Orange Beach to host a building expo on new hazard resilient products and techniques. The City of Orange Beach partnered with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Smart Home America, and the Gulf Coast Chapter of the International Code Council to bring together the key players in hazard resilient construction, including the International Code Council and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). This was very important for the homeowners because the insurance premium discounts in Alabama are based on IBHS’s Fortified program. As part of the expo, continuing education training for building code officials, design professionals, contractors, and supplies was conducted. The two days of training were to assist participants with the transition to the 2012 Residential and Building Code. Building code officials gained valuable training on the 2012 IRC and IBC. Coastal decision makers benefited from the expo by gaining a better understanding of risks to their citizens and steps that can be taken to reduce risk as well as insurance premiums for their residents allowing for a quick recovery after disasters. Homeowners benefited by becoming aware of the insurance premium discounts available to them through IBHS’s Fortified program.
These events were instrumental in providing the training needed to facilitate the adoption of the 2012 Edition of the International Code Series in Baldwin County, Alabama. The 2012 IRC and the Coastal Code Supplement or some modified version of it, were adopted by the Baldwin County Commission and 9 out of 13 municipalities within the county. Also several of the jurisdictions adopted a code-plus supplement based on the Fortified program mandating stronger and better built homes within their jurisdictions. The economic impact can be estimated by calculating the average number of permits pulled and thus the number of homes that are more resilient as a result. It is estimated that in a 50-year storm event, nearly 50% of homes will be damaged, with an average $11,600 claim per home. Annually in Baldwin County, Alabama, there are an average of 750 new construction projects and 350 re-roofs. If every one of these roofs were strengthened to the Fortified Home standard, which includes the sealed roof deck, the estimated savings for the community in prevented losses would be $6 million. This does not include the displacement cost for the families in these homes, which will be drastically reduced.
Outreach and training events on hazard resilient building techniques lead to the adoption of the 2012 International Residential Code and Coastal Code Supplement in Baldwin County, Alabama. (2014)