prepared by IMUA's
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I. Background of Building Codes
II. Unique Characteristics of Building Codes
BOCA/National Building Code
III. State Building Codes — Examples
IV. National Building Code
Natural Disasters Committee
Lori L. Light, Chairman, General Re
Geraldine Barberio, CNA
Tom Bozzone, CNA
Andy Castaldi, Swiss Re America
John Foreman, Lexington Insurance Co.
Nick Signoretta, Employers Re
I. Background of Building Codes
Historically, building codes have been created after fires or other disasters have killed or injured people, or caused property damage. King Hammurabi, in about 1700 BC, was perhaps responsible for the first building code when he established a law that a builder could be executed if the house he built collapsed.
Building codes require a compromise between safety and cost as they must protect people and property while setting forth minimum requirements for design and construction of buildings. There are two different approaches to codes: specification codes and performance codes. Specification codes detail materials and design of a building, while performance codes set standards for the performance of components of the building, leaving the designer freer to select methods and materials so long as the standards are met.
Promulgation of building codes in the U.S. began after the fires and earthquakes occurring in the early part of the century. In the early 1900s, three building fires (the Rhodes Opera House in Boyertown, PA in 1903; the Lakeview Grammar School in Collinwood, Ohio in 1908; and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911) led to the creation of the NFPA committee on Safety to Life. After spending several years studying notable fires involving loss of life and determining the cause of this loss of life, the committee prepared standards for the construction of stairways and fire escapes, including the arrangement of exit facilities for occupancies such as schools and factories. These standards form the basis of the present code.
Another major fire resulting in review of construction standards was the 1937 fire at the Consolidated School in New London, Texas which made officials aware of the need for state laws to improve safety in buildings not subject to municipal ordinance. Later, in the 1940s, a series of multiple death fires including those at the Rhythm Club, the Coconut Grove, and the LaSalle, Canfield and Winecoff Hotels once again called attention to the need for adequate exits and fire safety features in public buildings. Major changes to the Building Exits Code, as the Life Safety Codes was then known, were the result.
Three hospital fires: St. Anthony's, in Effingham IL in 1949 with 74 killed; Mercy Hospital in Davenport, IA with 41 killed; and the Hartford, CT, Hospital in 1961 with 16 killed moved fire safety and hospital officials to review the quality of fire protection, safety and construction in hospitals.
But it was the Our Lady of Angels School fire in Chicago on December 1, 1958 that probably caused the swiftest legal action of any fire since World War II. Within days of the tragic event, state and local officials throughout the nation ordered fire inspections on schools, and within one year it was reported that major improvements in life safety had been made in 16,500 schools across the country.
The National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), now the American Insurance Association (AIA), first published a National Building Code in 1905 as a model for adoption by cities to establish a basis for evaluating towns and cities for town grading purposes. The last revision to this code was in 1976, and AIA has announced that the National Building Code will no longer be updated and that BOCA has now acquired the right to the name National Building Code.
Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA), published the first edition of the Basic Building Code (BBC) in 1950. The BBC is now published as the Basic/National Building Code and is principally used in the Midwest and northeast United States.
In 1927, the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), first published the Uniform Building Code (UBC). UBC is principally used in the western United States but has been adopted as far east as Michigan.
Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), was formed in 1940 and first published the Southern Standard Building code in 1945, now called the Standard Building code. It is principally used in the southern United States.
The Board for Coordination of Model Codes began as the Joint Committee on Building Codes in 1941, later becoming the Model Code Standardization Council. Its primary objective is code uniformity. It is composed of representatives of the organizations creating model codes and others concerned with standards development.
As a result of congressional interest in building code reform, as well as attempts to increase interstate cooperation in the areas of building codes and standards, the National Conference of State on Building Codes and Standards (NCBCS) was formed in 1967.
In 1972, the Council of American Building Officials (CABO), was formed by three major code groups. AIA is not a member. The Board for the Coordination of the Model Codes, BCMC, is a committee of CABO with a goal of developing a uniform code language to be included in each group's codes. The organization of the National Research Board, and the publication of the One and Two Family Dwelling Code are major accomplishments of CABO. The National Research Board works with three sets of standards. The One and Two Family Dwelling Code contains standards for detached housing which meets the standards of all three codes.
II. Unique Characteristics of Current Building Codes
Building codes most directly control structural design of buildings. Building codes are the general basis for the granting of building permits (the legal permission required for construction). Building codes and the permit granting process are administered by some unit of government: city, county or state. Most building codes are based on a model, of which there are three widely used in the United States:
The similarities in the model codes far outweigh the differences, and the model codes are largely derived from the same basic data and standard reference sources, including many industry standards. There are, however, some items that reflect particular regional concerns.
With respect to control of structures, all codes similarly address the following issues:
These issues determine the choice of materials as well as some details of construction.
A. BOCA/National Building Code
The not-for-profit membership association, Building Officials and Code Administration International, Inc., (BOCA) is made up of more than 14,000 members in the building community. Their professional membership ranges from code enforcement officials and design professionals to builders and materials manufacturers, who are directly or indirectly engaged in the construction and regulatory process. Being the oldest building codes association (first organized in 1915), BOCA represents the full spectrum of code enforcement disciplines and construction industry interests. Their model code is considered the "dominant" model code in the Midwest and Northeast.
Through their professionally staffed state and local government units, BOCA is dedicated to the improvement of construction regulations. To do this, BOCA provides a complete and coordinated model code services package, the backbone of which is the BOCA National Code and the ICC International Code services. The BOCA National Codes include the BOCA/National Building Code, BOCA/National Fire Prevention Code and the National Property Maintenance Code, BOCA Mechanical Code, the BOCA Plumbing Code, and an Existing Structures Code.
These BOCA National codes are updated every three years. This is done through a democratic public hearing and revision procedure which allows all interested parties to propose or testify for or against such proposals. Active members, who are practicing regulatory code officials in the employ of units of government, vote to either accept or reject such proposals. This process is usually done on an annual basis, at their annual conference.
This code is the more performance oriented code, allowing design professionals freedom to use any BOCA listed materials or system at their discretion. Also, local authorities have freedom in making decisions on the use of materials.
B. Standard Building Code
The Standard Building Code (SBC) was first enacted by the Southern Building Code Congress International in 1945 at its Annual Research Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. The purpose of these codes is to protect life, health and welfare in the built environment. It is intended to be implemented by governmental jurisdictions. The Code incorporates nationally recognized standards for use in judging the performance of materials and systems. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia , Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee use the Standard Building Code as the basis of their state codes.
The following sections discuss the most important aspects of the SBC as it relates to natural disasters.
Almost every type of commercial building is included in the minimum design loads that apply to earthquake. One and two family dwellings that are in seismic map areas having an effective peak velocity - related acceleration value of less than 0.15 are exempt from the code. Agricultural storage buildings which are intended for incidental human occupancy are also exempt from these earthquake requirements.
Peak velocity - related acceleration is the maximum pulse of ground shaking at a location. This measurement of energy is determined from seismographic records. The lower the number the less damage that can be expected in that area. Virtually all of the southeast United States has areas that are below 0.15. Western Tennessee and northeast Arkansas, which are part of the New Madrid earthquake zone and follow the SBC, register readings of 0.20. (For comparison's sake, most of California has readings of 0.40).
All buildings that have less than 0.05 peak velocity - related acceleration value need to comply with only a very limited number of earthquake codes. This is also true for buildings that are frame, with between 0.05 and 0.10 peak velocity - related acceleration and are not considered essential for post earthquake recovery.
Code requirements are stricter for buildings that have a substantial public hazard due to occupancy; that are other than frame construction; and are in areas with potential for more than minor ground shaking. Also, buildings in areas where the soil profile has soft clay or silts deep into the ground have strict structural design requirements. Buildings sitting on soil types overlying rock with stiff deposits of sand, gravel or clay have less strict requirements.
When a building is required to follow codes because of its risk characteristics, design data on drawings is expected. Information such as the peak velocity - related acceleration, the seismic hazard exposure group, soil profile type, the basic structural system and the seismic resisting system must be submitted by the builder. Again, certain structural design limitations or requirements are placed on risks that have a greater exposure to loss from earthquake. For example, buildings that are essential for post - earthquake recovery are not permitted to have unreinforced masonry shear walls as part of its bearing wall system or building frame system and may not exceed 100 feet in height. These same buildings would be expected to have special moment frames of steel as opposed to ordinary moment frames of steel.
SBC codes apply to all buildings that are 60 feet or lower. American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 7 provisions apply to buildings higher than 60 feet. Buildings with unusual geometric shapes, response characteristics or site locations which generate significant exposure to loss should have their wind loads based on wind tunnel tests or nationally recognized data. Decreases in wind loads should not be made because of the effect of shielding by other structures. Structural members, cladding, fasteners and systems providing for the structural integrity of the building should be designed for the velocity pressures.
The first step in deciding the appropriate SBC wind load for a structure is determining the location's basic wind speed. Basic wind speed means the fastest mile per hour speeds at 10 meters above ground, and have an annual probability of 0.02; that is, the fastest winds that can be expected within a 50 year period. Most of the Southeast has 50 year recurrence wind speeds between 80 and 110 mph. The SBC provisions address wind velocities between 70 and 110 mph.
A table provides the required velocity pressure in pounds per square foot based on the wind velocity for the location and the building height. For example, buildings of 15 feet or less in height in a 70 mph location require 10 pounds per square foot (psf) for their wind load. Buildings 60 feet high in a 110 mph area require a wind load of 38 psf. These wind loads are modified by other important risk characteristics such as nature of occupancy, roof angles, wall and roof designs, and whether the building is enclosed, partially enclosed or open. Anchorage should be provided to resist excess overturning, uplift and sliding.
C. Uniform Building Code/ICBO
The International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) is a not-for-profit service organization owned and controlled by its member cities, counties and states. It is dedicated to public safety in the built environment through development and promotion of uniform codes and standards, enhancement of professionalism in code administration and facilitation of acceptance of innovative building products and systems.
ICBO was founded in 1922 to develop a model building code that could be used and enforced by all municipalities. In 1927, the first edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) was published. It has since been updated every three years and has developed into a performance-based code that makes possible the use of new materials and methods of construction. The UBC is currently the most widely used model code in the United States.
In 1931, ICBO realized a service was needed to evaluate projects and construction techniques regulated by the UBC. A committee was formed to monitor the evaluation process and to issue acceptance criteria for methods and products other than those specified in the code. These criteria are established through a system of open hearings and are intended to provide standards where code requirements are lacking or need diversification.
ICBO evaluation service was formed in 1986 in response to building industry needs and growing ICBO membership. It continues the work of evaluating alternative materials and methods of construction, and confirming that products comply with the UBC.
ICBO began its movement towards support of a single model building in 1991. Working with BOCA and SBCCI, it continues to develop the proposed International Building Code. On June 8, 1996 the ICBO Board of Directors voted to suspend further development of the UBC in order to concentrate full-time on the International Building Code.
III. State Building Codes - Examples
The following are examples of how two states administer their state building codes:
In the State of Connecticut, all its towns and cities adhere to the BOCA (Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc.) guidelines in relation to building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing codes.
In the General Statutes of Connecticut it is stated under Sec. 29-252, Part I a: "State Building Inspector, appointed by the Governor and the Codes and Standards Committee appointed by the Commissioner of Public Safety shall jointly adopt and administer a State Building Code for the purpose of regulating the design, construction and use of buildings or structures to be erected and make such amendments thereto as they, from time to time, deem necessary or desirable. The State Fire Marshal also has the responsibility for enforcement of State Building Codes."
The Codes and Standards Committee is composed of seventeen state residents. Two members must be architects licensed in the state; three must be professional engineers; two must practice either structural, mechanical, or electrical engineering; one must be a builder or a superintendent of building construction; one must be a public health official; two must be building officials; two shall be local fire marshals; one shall be a laborer in a national labor organization; and five shall be public members, one of whom shall have expertise in matters relating to accessibility and use of facilities by the physically disabled.
Under Sec. 29-260 and 29-261 of the statutes it is written that "The chief executive officer of any town, city, or borough shall appoint an officer to administer the code." The term of office shall be four years and the official shall be known as the building official. The person must have at least five years of experience in construction and/or design, while assistant building officials must have at least three years.
Prior to any building phase, whether it be a commercial or private structure, the contractor/builder submits drawings (specifications) to the local building official. If approved, the official will make periodic checks during construction and, when completed to code requirements, they will issue a Certificate of Occupancy. If a Certificate of Occupancy is rejected, whether it be for a new structure or an alteration to an existing one, it may be submitted to the local Municipal Board of Appeals for review. If the decision of the board upholds the initial judgment, a further appeal can be made to the State Codes and Standards Committee.
Part VII of Chapter 553, Florida Statutes, known as the "Florida Building Codes Act", contains the minimum building code requirements for the state of Florida. These requirements have been adopted and enforced since 1974, and apply to local governments and state agencies with building construction regulation responsibility. These minimum codes must be flexible enough to cover all phases of construction and to allow for the reasonable protection of public safety, health, and general welfare at the most reasonable cost to the consumer.
The state's minimum building codes are spelled out in section 553.73, Florida Statutes. It specifically requires that at least one of four designated building codes be adopted by each of the 384 local jurisdictions with building departments, and by state agencies with building construction regulation responsibility. The designated minimum codes are:
When it comes to enforcement, subsection (6) of section 553.73, Florida Statutes, and section 553.80, Florida Statutes, assign responsibility for the enforcement of codes to local governments, legally constituted enforcement districts, and state agencies with statutory authority to regulate building construction. Local governments determine the structure of the enforcement department.
Of course, more stringent requirements can be adopted by local governments and state agencies by amending the designated minimum codes. In order for these amendments to be adopted, the adoption must be preceded by a public hearing to determine the need for an amendment based on local conditions, and the amendment may not discriminate against materials, products or construction techniques.
Prior to issuance of construction permits and prior to issuing occupancy permits, local government agencies must review and approve building plans and certify that completed buildings are in compliance with the minimum codes. As recent as 1985, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the idea that local governments be held financially accountable for the negligent enforcement of building codes. The Court added that the legislature had the power to change this law so that local governments could be held accountable, but they suggested that the legislature not so act because of the financial impact on these small entities, as it would make them and its taxpayers insurers for all building construction defects.
IV. National Building Code
A. One National Standard/CABO
Located in Falls Church, Virginia, the Council of American Building Officials (CABO) is the umbrella organization for the three previously discussed model code organizations: BOCA, ICBO, and SBCCI. These organizations are comprised of officials who are responsible for the enforcement of the building codes in their state and local jurisdiction.
"CABO is dedicated to the public's health, safety, and related societal needs in the built environment through the development and use of consensus-based regulatory documents, enhancement and professionalism in code administration, and facilitating acceptance of innovative building products and systems. CABO brings about a balance to the multitude of viewpoints regarding the model code system at the national level". (This is from their Web site: "About CABO" at http://cabo.org/about.htm.
Within this decade, the three model code organizations have united toward the goal of national code uniformity. With the ultimate goal of a single national code, the 1993 BOCA/National Building Code, the 1994 ICBO/Uniform Building Code, and the 1994 SBCCI/Standard Building Code were reorganized into this common format. This effort means that users can find a given topic in the same chapter of all three documents.
In order to get the technical content equal for all three organizations, in 1994 the three model code organizations created the International Code Council (ICC) to oversee the development of a single set of model codes. As explained at a BOCA Seminar, the international family of codes provides the opportunity to:
The seminar pointed out that there may be concerns with the technical disparities existing between codes that make our code system less effective than a single code would be. Resources would be better placed on development of innovative products, materials and methods of construction, rather than spending millions of dollars trying to comply with multiple and sometimes conflicting codes.
Please see Attachment A for a chart which shows the different codes and estimated development/publication schedule. These codes formally replace those codes published by the three organizations.
By the year 2000, the ICC expects to have completely developed the International Building Code. Within this time frame, the ICC will promulgate and maintain a single universal set of code documents, eliminating the need for the private sector to monitor and participate in three separate code development processes.
B. ISO/Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule
Construction, occupancy, protection and exposure (COPE) are important features in the development of insurance rates for individual properties. Another element currently under development is the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS). BCEGS is a standardized assessment of the building codes in effect in a community and the enforcement of those codes, with particular emphasis on building code requirements designed to mitigate losses from natural hazards.
BCEGS was developed by the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO); its purpose is to give insurers an objective scale with which to identify those communities and specific buildings where efforts have been made to mitigate catastrophe losses, and to reward those efforts with rating credits. BCEGS is similar in concept to ISO's Public Protection Classification, where communities are assigned a rating of 1 to 10 based on the quality of their fire departments and water supply. BCEGS also uses a 1 to 10 scale (with 1 being the best and 10 the worst).
A community's classification is determined by its:
ISO also collects information such as the natural hazards common to the area, the building department's funding adequacy, number of permits issued, and number of inspections completed. An ISO representative will always meet with a community's building officials to review and clarify the information gathered and possibly visit a construction site. The ISO representative will then tabulate the points scored on the various parts of the rating schedule and assign a classification from 1 to 10. Communities in classification 1 demonstrate exemplary enforcement of a model building code, while classification 10 represents no recognized protection.
After a community has been assigned a classification, that classification will apply to any building receiving a certificate of occupancy in that or subsequent years, until the grading is rescinded or changed. A building keeps its initial classification even if a community is reevaluated and reclassified. ISO plans to reevaluate each community every five years, unless information is received which could change the community's classification before the five year review.
Note that BCEGS applies only to new construction which receives a certificate of occupancy in the year the community was graded or later. Individual buildings built before the community was classified can be eligible for BCEGS grading only if inspected by a registered design professional. If the building is then certified as being in conformance with one of the nationally recognized building codes with respect to natural hazards mitigation, it will be given a BCEGS classification of 1.
ISO believes that BCEGS offers several general benefits, such as improved building codes and more consistent application of those codes, and reduced losses to life and property resulting from better building construction. An additional advantage is the positive image these benefits can bring to the insurance industry by demonstrating the industry's commitment to addressing catastrophe perils. While BCEGS was designed to apply to natural perils, with an obvious emphasis on wind and earthquake, it can also mitigate fire losses, because proper enforcement of adequate codes will serve to raise the overall quality of construction.
Insureds can receive rating credits based on their communities' BCEGS classifications, which will be grouped in ranges of 1-3, 4-7, 8-9, and 10. ISO will develop and file BCEGS advisory rating credits which can be applied to personal and commercial property loss costs. These rating factors will vary by territory and line of insurance. Each territory's credits will be based on loss information and other data specific to that territory. Classifications 1 through 3 will receive the highest credit, with no credit offered for classification 10. While ISO intends BCEGS to be a credit-only program, some states may allow debit rating factors. For example, the Florida Insurance Department has approved a 1% surcharge for new construction in those communities not participating in the program.
In addition to the BCEGS classifications, ISO will make other underwriting information about communities available to insurers, including:
These reports will become available after the BCEGS classifications are published in ISO's Public Protection Classification manual.
BCEGS was developed by ISO with the input of several organizations, including the Institute for Business & Home Safety, and the three organizations that produce model building codes: the International Conference of Building Officials, the Southern Building Code Congress International, and the Building Officials and Code Administrators International. Information was also gathered from over 1,500 building code officials nationwide. The program was tested in 154 communities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
All costs of BCEGS are carried by the insurers using the information provided by the program. Taxpayers will not incur any costs associated with the program.
ISO has published the following state-by-state schedule for implementation of the program:
A November 1997 telephone call to ISO confirmed that program implementation is approximately on schedule.
For more information regarding BCEGS, contact your local ISO office. ISO publishes a booklet entitled Evaluating Building-Code Effectiveness (1997), which is an excellent guide to the program and is available by calling ISO.
When Will the International Codes be Published?
The ICC Board approved the following tentative development/publication schedule:
Fire Protection Handbook, sixteenth edition, Arthur E. Cote, PE Editor in Chief, Jim L. Linville, Managing Editor, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy Massachusetts.
Assessing the Magnitude of the Fire Problem, Arthur E. Cote, PE
Building Codes and Standards, Revised by Arthur E. Cote PE
Mr. Cote is the Assistant Vice President/Standards of the National Fire Protection Association, and is Secretary to the NFPA standards council.
Evaluating Building-Code Effectiveness (1997), Insurance Services Office (ISO)
Simplified Engineering for Architects and Builders, Eighth Edition, Harry Parker, M.S., prepared by James Ambrose, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1993, New York, NY
"Welcome to BOCA International Inc." located at http://www.boca.com
"Insurers Hold Down Insureds Losses by Upholding Building Codes," by Dominick J. Yezzi, Jr. CPCU; CPCU Journal, Vol. 49, No. 4, Winter, 1996. Published by The CPCU Society, Malvern, PA
The CABO Home Page, located at http://www.cabo.org