Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Maryland Building Performance Standards (MBPS) into law last week which will prohibit local jurisdictions from weakening the wind design and windborne debris provisions in the state’s building codes. It will take effect October 1. The state legislature noted in its news analysis that this law “prohibits a local government from adopting amendments to the MBPS that weaken the wind design and wind-borne debris provisions contained in the standards.”

“Builders in some jurisdictions – those that otherwise would have amended wind design and wind-borne debris provisions of MBPS – could incur an increase in expenditures to the extent the bill requires additional costs to adhere to MBPS wind design and wind-borne debris provisions.”

The Maryland Building Performance Standards (MBPS) requires each jurisdiction in Maryland to use the same edition of the same building codes that are the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The state has modified the IBC and the IRC to coincide with other Maryland laws. The International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), with modifications by the state constitute the MBPS.

Groups such as The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) applauded the law and pointed out that the 2012 storms illustrated that high winds do not respect zone boundaries. Properties more than 100 miles from the coast also can experience significant wind damage, and that includes Maryland.

“By signing the bill into law, Governor O’Malley reinforces Maryland’s commitment to protecting its citizens against the very real threat of windstorms, including hurricanes” says Debra Ballen, IBHS general counsel and senior vice president of public policy. “Like other effective property loss mitigation measures, strong building codes can save lives, promote long-term fiscal stability, reduce public sector response and recovery costs, protect the environment and create a more resilient society.

“Strong codes help maintain the local and state tax base, which is vital to supporting public services, such as police and fire departments,” Ballen adds.

An IBHS study following Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004, found that homes built to modern codes with increased wind resistance were 40 percent less likely to be damaged and the repair costs were 60 percent lower.

“Allowing local jurisdictions to weaken the wind-resistance portion of the state building code could reduce the protection afforded to home and business owners, destroy the concept of baseline protection for all and complicate the design and building processes,” says Ballen. “New homes and businesses, as well as those that are substantially renovated, located in areas vulnerable to windstorms will be better able to withstand the high winds due to the wind design and wind-borne debris protections in the building code.

“By not allowing these important protections to be weakened, Gov. O’Malley chose to forego potentially cheaper costs upfront in favor of avoiding much more expensive long-term costs for homeowners, communities, the state, and the natural environment,” Ballen adds.

For more discussion on Maryland, and other building codes in Northeast states, look to a past DWM news article on the subject.


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