Window & Door Fabricators Can Help Buyers Navigate Building Code Hodge-Podge

December 13, 2023

Hunters Point in Cortez, Florida, is one of a growing number of developments “that combine the energy efficiency of green building design with the resilience of hurricane-resistant construction.” (Greener – and Tougher – Homes Gain Favor, WSJ, Dec. 4, 2023)

The developers have billed Hunters Point as the first net-zero single-family home development in the U.S. The hurricane-resistant construction also exceeds Florida’s rigorous building codes.

For example, the homes are anchored by a concrete slab and blocks at the base. The ground floor is often a high garage with flood vents to accommodate rising water. And, energy-efficient windows are impact- and pressure-resistant.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992, with its $25B in damage, was a wakeup call to the Florida construction industry, according to a piece by Graham Architectural Products. “Wind zone levels were not adequate, the existing standards were not being adhered to, and codes were not being enforced. As a result, missile impact test standards were developed and more stringent building codes were put in place that are now enforced.”

Today, Florida has one of the strongest building codes in the United States. The state is also top ranked by the Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS) – coming in at 95 on a 100-point scale.

Almost half of coastal states lack state-wide building codes or enforcement

Released every three years following the building code update cycle of the International Code Council, the IBHS report, Rating the States, scores the eighteen Atlantic and Gulf states vulnerable to hurricanes. The last report was issued in 2021.

The scores are based on a set of questions related to statewide building code adoption; administration and enforcement; and contractor licensing requirements in the adopted building code.

Of the 18 states ranked (Texas through Maine), eight states received a ranking of “Poor” – meaning, a score of less than 70 points. States that lack a mandatory statewide building code include Georgia, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Delaware.

While the IBHS ranking focuses on adoption and enforcement of building codes statewide, individual counties within states can choose to adopt and enforce International codes.

Consumers and businesses can use the tool, “Inspect to Protect,” developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to determine the building code status of their county by zip code. (Source)

Westport, CT, the location of ISC’s headquarters, for example, conforms to the state mandated 2021 International Building Code for commercial buildings. This means structures that meet code are Strong to Flood and Strong to Hurricane.

Educating buyers and builders – a few tips

The non-profit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) found that 8 out of 10 respondents mistakenly believe their state codes are adequate. Upon learning they might not be, 84% of consumers surveyed were concerned, very concerned, or extremely concerned. (Source: IBHS)

To enable owners of residential or commercial structures to meet new codes (whether or not they’re mandated to do so), the IBHS, DHS, and FLASH, all supply information on how to toughen existing structures or build fortified ones. Contractors and builders can also become certified through the IBHS FORTIFIED® program.

Because so much information does exist, and because people don’t keep abreast of which codes their states or county have adopted, window and door fabricators that provide impact-resistant products can make things easier for consumers and builders with easy-to-find website content.

List codes to which products have been tested (e.g. ASTM / E1886 / E1996) – Several tests for impact-resistance exist, so don’t assume everyone understands which ones are relevant to them. For each product, list the tests to which your products have been tested and verified.

Provide helpful charts (e.g. Good, Better, Best) – If you offer several impact- or pressure-resistant lines, create a chart that lists features / benefits so that buyers can make informed decisions based on budget, location, state code, etc.

Provide links to building code-related websites – Modifying or building fortified homes that combine energy efficiency provide several benefits, including financial rebates, lower insurance costs, and peace of mind. Help people understand the importance of these benefits by creating content around or adding links to sites such as IBHS, DHS’ Inspect to Protect, or FLASH.

Toughening structures to withstand hurricanes and other natural events reduces risk and the cycle of destruction. Modern codes also provide sustained loss avoidance – ensuring small businesses can reopen after a natural disaster.