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North Carolina Building Codes Substandard, Report Finds

As we approach the height of hurricane season, the importance of strong, enforceable building codes, particularly along coastal Atlantic and Gulf states, becomes especially clear.

Unfortunately, our North Carolina premises liability attorneys understand that our state is failing its residents in terms of the kinds of protections it offers when it comes to building safety standards.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has recently released a midterm update to its Rating the States report, which focuses on the progress made by the 18 states along the coast that have been identified as the most hurricane prone.

Of them all, Florida ranks No. 1 with a score of 95 out of 100. North Carolina ranked No. 7 with a score of 81 out of 100 initially in the first report, released in January 2012. However, state officials have since taken negative action that in fact weakens the protective building codes that were previously in place.

The IBHS noted that while North Carolina leaders have adopted recommendations of improved building codes over the last three years, the implementation and enforcement of those measures in any sort of timely fashion is in real doubt. That’s because there were a number of legislative changes adopted earlier this year that stretch the implementation cycle for building code enforcement from every 3 years to every 6 years.

That means it will be another several years before building owners will have to update their safety standards.

Plus the building code’s technical standards, as spelled out by the North Carolina Building Code Council, have actually been weakened.

For one thing, the council has proposed eliminating the requirement for permanent anchors used for fastening wood structural panels for windborne debris protection.

Additionally, areas directly on the coast have been allowed to adopt wind protection standards that are intended for those locations further inland, with wind speed ratings falling below 110 miles per hour. That means these structures are only rated up to a Category 2 storm, when there are a total of 5 potential categories.

A Category 3 storm, which is measured by wind speeds of between 111 and 130 miles per hour, will mean moderate to severe structural damage to small residences and utility buildings. Mobile homes will be destroyed and flooding will be common near the coast. That’s an estimation per the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Actual damages could be worse, even with a lower-rated storm.

Often, what makes all the difference is the strength of the structures involved. Lax or weakened building codes all but ensures damage will be more extensive when – not if – a storm hits.

Given that state leaders have failed to make this a top priority, we encourage all residents of North Carolina to boost their own hurricane preparedness.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends:

  • Learning the elevation of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property is likely to be affected when tidal flooding or storm surge are predicted.
  • Identify whether local dams and levees may pose any hazard to you or your property.
  • Make a plan to secure your property by covering all your windows with storm shudders, trimming all shrubs and trees around your home, clearing clogged rain gutters and reinforcing garage doors.

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid, exclusive of case costs.

Additional Resources:
IBHS Updates Building Code Rating Report for 18 Coastal States, Aug. 22, 2013, Press Release, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
More Blog Entries:
Deck Collapse Causes Serious Injuries in North Carolina, July 29, 2013, North Carolina Premise Liability Lawyer Blog

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