Obama Calls for ‘Earthquake Resiliency’

Filed in Codes and Regulations, Design by on February 11, 2016 0 Comments

crack in brickIn what appears to be becoming a pattern of recycling old resiliency executive orders, on Feb. 2, President Obama signed Executive Order (E.O) 13717 “Establishing a Federal Earthquake Risk Standard.” The E.O. updates a George H.W. Bush-era document in an effort to improve the nation’s resilience to seismic activity — and could change the way builders and developers operate in earthquake-prone areas.

E.O. 13717 calls for all new buildings “owned, leased, financed, and regulated by the Federal Government” to meet earthquake-resistant design provisions of the 2015 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). Federal agencies are encouraged, however, to “consider going beyond” these codes and standards to ensure that buildings are fully earthquake resilient.

Although a fact sheet issued by the White House indicates the E.O. applies only to federal agencies responsible for the design and construction of new buildings or alteration of existing buildings, the text of the E.O. itself suggests otherwise. Of particular concern to NAHB is the E.O.’s application to new buildings reliant on federal assistance.

The E.O. states, “Each agency assisting in the financing, through Federal grants or loans, or guaranteeing the financing, through loan or mortgage insurance programs, of a newly constructed building shall consider updating its procedures for providing the assistance” to be consistent with or exceeding the seismic safety provisions of the 2015 IBC or IRC.

Within eight months, the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC), composed of representatives from all federal agencies engaged in construction or financing of construction and led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program must put guidelines in place to ensure the E.O. is part of their construction programs.

In the meantime, NAHB will meet with federal agencies, including NIST, HUD, and FEMA, to clarify to scope of the E.O. and identify concerns related to state and local adoption of the 2015 IBC or IRC for projects dependent on federal loans, grants or mortgage insurance programs upon which the home building industry relies.

For more information contact Owen McDonough, program manager, environmental policy at 202-266-8662 or Billie Kaumaya, federal legislative director, at 202-266-8570.

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