FEMA Offers Every State $2 Million to Adopt Safer Building Codes

By scientificamerican.com.

First-of-its-kind FEMA funding aims to update archaic building codes that leave millions of people exposed to climate-fueled hurricanes, floods and other extreme weather

CLIMATEWIRE | Two houses are side by side. One is a crumpled mess of splintered wood and ripped insulation. The other stands perfectly intact.

This image is one that increasingly pops up on news sites and social media after hurricanes, floods and climate-fueled disasters. An accompanying caption often emphasizes that the intact home was built with a hurricane-resistant roof and flood-resistant materials.

Such images are enmeshed in a growing push to make buildings more resilient to climate impacts — an effort that a federal agency catapulted forward Thursday when it vowed to give every state up to $2 million next year to improve building codes.

The unprecedented funding — from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — follows a series of reports showing that most local building codes are archaic and leave millions of people highly exposed to climate impacts. It also comes after President Joe Biden launched an initiative in June 2022 to help states and localities adopt the latest building codes.

“This is the single largest investment ever at the federal level in support of hazard-resistant building codes,” said Gabe Maser, senior vice president for government relations at the International Code Council, which publishes model building codes that local officials can adopt.

“It sends an incredibly powerful message,” Maser added.

The new FEMA money comes as some state legislatures, under pressure from builders, block plans by state agencies to adopt new building codes. New codes — often criticized as costly — typically have stronger construction standards and account for the latest effects of climate change.