Why States Are Not Adopting More Stringent Building Codes

Recently, Sandy Springs, GA, passed an ordinance banning light-framed combustible construction in buildings three stories or more and over 100,000 square feet due to fire safety and smart growth concerns. Many municipalities in and around the cities of Chicago and New York City have had similar requirements mandated for decades, but this concept seems very slow to catch on elsewhere (mostly due to opposition from wood and homebuilder interest groups).
In Mississippi, the state’s Building Code Council, is seeking to roll back its energy code to a much less stringent and older standard, using an energy code that is over 13 years old. A similar effort was recently approved in Kentucky when the state rolled back its energy standard to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, which was widely seen as a political favor to the homebuilders association’s concerns about first cost.

Why is this happening when it is proven that the best way to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change in a state’s built environment is to promulgate and adopt stricter and more efficient building code measures? Construction projects that focus on these "first costs" fail to account for costs associated with energy use over their lifetime. Further, because building owners or occupants typically aren’t involved in the early planning stages, choices made by developers may actually lead to higher costs in the long run, both environmentally and economically for homeowners, insurance agencies and taxpayers. Building practices that place more emphasis on life cycle considerations can be mandated or incentivized through a variety of means: changing building codes; incentivizing designs that meet green or resilient building standards; or requiring that city buildings meet these standards so this first cost mentality goes away.

Build With Strength, a coalition led by the NRMCA, is addressing this issue in many states and cities with both a public affairs campaign and a robust advocacy effort. To learn more about how NRMCA can assist affiliates and members with their government affairs efforts, including life-cycle assessment model legislation, contact John Loyer at 703-675-7603 or jloyer@nrmca.org.

National Ready Mixed Concrete Association