Here’s how the government wants to disaster-proof your home

Jun 1, 2022, 5:40 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm
FILE - This image released by the National Park Service, shows a collapsed beachfront home along Oc...

FILE - This image released by the National Park Service, shows a collapsed beachfront home along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe, N.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. The National Park Service issued a warning to visitors on Wednesday for debris. (National Park Service via AP, File)

(National Park Service via AP, File)

MIAMI (AP) — On this first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, federal officials are launching a new initiative to modernize building codes so that communities can be more resilient to hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather events that are intensifying due to climate change.

Deanne Criswell, the administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Ali Zaidi, the deputy national climate adviser to President Joe Biden, discussed the initiative Wednesday during a briefing at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, where recovering from a hit similar to Hurricane Andrew could cost hundreds of billions today.

Updated building codes provide a range of smart design and construction methods “that save lives, reduce property damage, and lower utility bills,” according to a news release announcing the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes. It applies to new construction and to homes and buildings that are rebuilt due to damage.

“The adoption of hazard-resistant building codes saves communities $11 per every $1 invested,” Criswell said, citing a finding by the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The initiative, approved by the National Climate Task Force earlier this year, comes amid signs that coastal communities should brace themselves for more intense storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 14 to 21 named storms in the Atlantic this season, with six to 10 becoming hurricanes and three to six turbo-charging into major hurricanes with winds greater than 110 mph (177 kph).

It’s already begun with Agatha, a storm that battered Mexico over the past few days and may re-form in the Gulf of Mexico and possibly threaten parts of Florida by this weekend, the hurricane center said.

“This initiative is proof that acting on climate change delivers countless benefits to all Americans, especially in our most vulnerable communities,” said Gina McCarthy, the president’s national climate adviser.

The program is designed to help buildings withstand damage caused by all natural disasters, including wildfires, tornadoes and floods.

The codes ensure, for example, that roofs can withstand hurricane-force winds, that construction materials are resistant to flood damage and that insulation helps reduce heating and cooling costs, officials said.

It’s a “no-brainer” to make new houses and buildings more energy efficient as a means of reducing climate change impacts, said Wendell Porter, professor emeritus of building professions at the University of Florida. But location is what really matters, he said.

“You don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade,” Porter said. “A big announcement that they’re going to build better houses, that’s always good news. But until you decide to not build in certain locations, it’s a waste of time.”

Take coastal communities, for example.

“It’s really hard to build a structure to actually withstand flooding,” Porter said, “There’s only two real good methods and that’s either build it up, or retreat. Stilts or away.”

After Miami-Dade County was hit by Hurricane Andrew, stringent building code enforcement followed. But so did population growth, coastal development and climate change. Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history at the time, causing more than $26 billion of damage in Florida’s most populous areas.

Likewise, officials said, education will be a key element of the modernized building codes. A FEMA analysis found that only 35% of cities, counties and towns across the country have updated hazard-resistant building codes. Cost is a factor: Construction and renovation designed for disaster resiliency can be more expensive. But the estimated savings for typical households in utility bills alone could be about $162 per year, officials projected.

And on a larger scale, communities that have adopted modern building codes are already saving an estimated $1.6 billion a year in avoided damage from major disasters, officials said. That equates to a cumulative $132 billion through 2040 that won’t have to be spent on disaster recovery.

Federal agencies will use $225 million in infrastructure funding already approved for the U.S. Department of Energy to support energy code adoption, enforcement, training and technical assistance at the state and local level.

They also predict that newer codes could deliver $138 billion in energy cost savings and prevent carbon emissions equivalent to what 195 million gasoline-powered cars emit in a year.

The agencies said they plan to lead by example, implementing the new codes in federal buildings.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Northern California wildfire threatens 500 buildings

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire that erupted in Northern California forced evacuations as it threatened about 500 homes and other buildings Tuesday, authorities said. The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 500 acres (202 hectares) by nightfall, said Unit Chief […]
23 hours ago
Rich Morris of Toadflax Nursery helps to plant marijuana seedlings at Homestead Farms and Ranch in ...
Associated Press

New York’s 1st legal marijuana crop sprouts under the sun

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s recreational marijuana market is beginning to sprout, literally, with thin-leafed plants stretching toward the sun in farms around the state. In a novel move, New York gave 203 hemp growers first shot at cultivating marijuana destined for legal sales, which could start by the end of the year. […]
23 hours ago
FILE - R. Kelly arrives at the Cook County Criminal Court Building, in Chicago, June 13, 2008. R&B ...
Associated Press

R. Kelly timeline: Shining star to convicted sex trafficker

R. Kelly’s musical accomplishments have been accompanied by a long history of allegations that he sexually abused women and children. Now the R&B singer could be put away behind bars for a quarter-century or more when he is sentenced Wednesday in a federal courtroom in New York City. A jury found Kelly guilty in September […]
23 hours ago
FILE - R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Sept. 17, ...
Associated Press

R&B hitmaker R. Kelly due in court for sex abuse sentencing

NEW YORK (AP) — R& B star R. Kelly faces the possibility of a quarter century or more in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday in a federal sex trafficking case in New York. A jury found Kelly, 55, guilty of racketeering and other counts last year at a trial that was seen as a […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A protester waves Hong Kong British colony flag during continuing pro-democracy rallies in T...
Associated Press

Hong Kong in limbo 25 years after British handover to China

HONG KONG (AP) — When the British handed its colony Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997, it was promised 50 years of self-government and freedoms of assembly, speech and press that are not allowed Chinese on the Communist-ruled mainland. As the city of 7.4 million people marks 25 years under Beijing’s rule on Friday, those […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Hindu man’s slaying stokes tensions in Indian city

NEW DELHI, India (AP) — Mobile internet services and large gatherings remained restricted in India’s western Udaipur city on Wednesday, a day after police arrested two Muslim men accused of killing a Hindu tailor in a suspected religious attack. The Hindu man, Kanhaiya Lal, was stabbed multiple times inside his tailoring shop Tuesday by two […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Here’s how the government wants to disaster-proof your home