Texas Weighs Stronger Building Codes Post-Harvey

May 30, 2018

Homeowners in Texas are still rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey’s 130-mile-an-hour winds tore through communities, damaging and flooding homes and businesses in August 2017. And as the start of a new hurricane season looms on June 1, homeowners in Texas coastal cities are pondering how far they should go in building sturdier homes that can better withstand natural disasters. Some officials are urging for stiffer standards in the state, but others fear that requirements could cause financial hardship to rebuilding homeowners, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Texas has no statewide building code. But municipalities are considering whether to adopt new standards, given the widespread destruction after Hurricane Harvey. Newer homes tended to fare better than older ones during Harvey. But damage was widespread regardless, WSJ reports. 

A program dubbed “Fortified,” created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a research organization founded by insurers, is gaining more interest. The guidelines include emphasis on protecting the roof, which can prompt significant damage if it fails. Homes earn gold, silver, or bronze certifications depending on which provisions builders adopt. Homeowners in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi, for example, who build to the “Fortified” standards are qualifying for insurance discounts or other incentives. 

Alabama is seeing the largest growth in properties meeting the “Fortified” standards at about 7,000 that are designated as such, out of about 8,200 total in the U.S. 

Other places struck by strong storms are considering stricter standards too. Risk consultants told WSJ that with rising sea levels and intense hurricanes, more communities need to take steps to toughen buildings to keep communities safer. The steps can also make properties more attractive to insurance carriers and coverage with affordable rates. Every $1 of federal grant money spent to mitigate the risks of natural hazards can avoid $6 in losses, according to a study last year by the National Institute of Building Sciences. 

The U.S. has no mandatory national building code. States and localities adopt their own. Several cities after big storms have taken the steps to do so. For example, Miami-Dade County in Florida made its building requirements stricter following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. County officials mandated more robust roof systems and strengthened testing standards for construction products. Florida passed a statewide building code in 2002, which is among the strictest in the country. 


After Harvey, Texas Town Looks to Fortify in State With No Mandatory Building Code,” The Wall Street Journal (May 25, 2018) [Login required.]