Understanding Building Codes

Building codes are laws that set minimum requirements for the design and construction of buildings, historically focused on life-safety. Building codes define what your building should withstand from a variety of external forces like wind, rain, hail and wildfire, but also help safeguard people from other internal hazards such as fire and electrical malfunctions.

Building codes are developed through a consensus process administered by the International Code Council (ICC), which develops, among other codes, the International Residential Code (IRC), International Building Code (IBC), and International Wildland Urban Interface Code (IWUI Code). IBHS has been deeply engaged in this process for decades—our research and insights have contributed to significant code advancements since 2000.

Modern building codes, when adopted and enforced, work!

They save lives, reduce property damage, reduce disruption in our lives, and strengthen the resiliency of our communities. IBHS strongly supports:

  • Statewide adoption of building codes
  • Local enforcement of the codes
  • Training and licensing of building officials, builders, and contractors

Lawmakers and government officials can adopt or tailor the code to their state, county or city’s needs. No new state has adopted a building code since 2008. In the absence of statewide codes, local jurisdictions must try to fill the gap, but they do not always have the resources to succeed. IBHS research can affect a better outcome that leads to a more resilient tomorrow.




    • FORTIFIED is a beyond-code construction method backed by decades of research, that a roofing contractor or builder can use to further protect a home, multifamily or commercial structure against severe weather. Once a home or building has been built or retrofitted to this standard, a certificate is issued that can be distributed to their insurer.
    • The beyond-code Coastal Construction Code Supplement and Inland Construction Code Supplement, developed by IBHS and Smart Home America, bridge the gap between existing I Codes and the IBHS FORTIFIED technical standard.




    • Wildfire Prepared Home is a beyond-code, research-based mitigation and designation program designed for homeowners to meaningfully reduce wildfire risk to protect their home. Once a home has been built or retrofitted to this standard, a certificate is issued that can be distributed to their insurer.
    • WUI Model Ordinance provides a model ordinance addressing construction and defensible space requirements with three levels of increasing resilience to wildfire.