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Building code legislation protects against natural disasters

Post Time:Nov 12,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:40

Glass companies to benefit from uniformity of code bill

As wildfires raged throughout California last week, one of the state’s representatives presented legislation to Congress that would lead to tougher and more uniform building codes across the country if passed and adopted. “In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge and now the wildfires in California, it is clear that we must make investments in our structures, buildings and communities to help mitigate the effects of disasters,” Rep. Doris Matsui of Calif. said in an Oct. 23 release about the proposed Safe Building Codes Act of 2007. The fires have restarted discussions about building codes, according to an Oct. 28 article from the Seattle Times. Standards and ordinances that dictate where and how structures are built greatly affects the extent of destruction during a disaster. People are moving to riskier areas such as the California canyons and the hurricane-prone Florida coasts, creating trillions of dollars of value that is at risk, says Tim Reinhold, director of engineering and vice president for the Institute of Building and Home Safety in Tampa, Fla. “When a natural disaster occurs, a tremendous amount of damage results,” he says. Instituting and enforcing safe building codes can reduce the amount of loss monetarily by 75 percent, Reinhold says.

Photo by Solutia Inc., St. Louis The destroyed facade of non-impact glazing on a Punta Gorda, Fla., professional building after Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Watch video of impact testing here.

The proposed legislation provides incentives to states that adopt and enforce model building codes, specifically the International Building Codes and the codes of National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Mass. Although most states are adopting the iCodes from the IBC, states such as the Carolinas and Georgia have weakened the codes with amendments providing exceptions for some structures or even allowances for jurisdictions to opt out completely. In other states, such as Texas, local governments simply aren’t enforcing the codes, says Nanette Lockwood, legislative affairs manager for Solutia Inc. of St. Louis. “For states to qualify for pre-disaster funds [specified in the proposed legislation], they are going to have to adopt the right codes. They will get money to set up a building department for enforcement,” she says. If a disaster strikes, those states will get an extra 4 percent of relief funding from the government because they have adopted and enforced the codes. The legislation would also greatly ease the job for contract glaziers and glass companies that currently deal with huge variations among states and even counties within states, Lockwood says. “For the glazing industry, it ensures more comprehensive and consistent codes between states,” she says. Bob Rushing, preconstruction manager for Architectural Aluminum Techniques in Orlando, says he faces a lack of uniformity in codes just within the state of Florida. “Counties vary with their definition of the impact zone,” Rushing says. “We have to ask officials in each individual area to make sure we’re up on what each county requires. Uniform codes would be beneficial to us. There would be less guess work, less chance for catastrophe.” Lockwood encourages glass companies to contact their state representatives about the legislation. “The more consistent we can make the codes, the better off we will be,” Lockwood says. “We need to make absolutely certain that our industry speaks up to [their state’s] federal house members to say that we do support this. … There is not a single state in the country that is not prone to natural disasters, so we all need to get involved.” To read the bill and learn more, click here.

—By Katy Devlin, e-newsletter editor, e-glass weekly

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