Oshin has a valid point. Some of the structures that were insured had code
upgrade as part of their coverage. In many cases the Insurance industry tried
to deny the additional cost to bring a non-compliant home up to current code
in regards to anchorage, cripple wall sheathing and much more. This was met
with a lot of resistance, however, in all of the repair projects that I was
involved with I was able to help the owner - especially when the repair work
was based upon the emergency codes that were in force at the time. This
generally brought them up to greater levels of safety than previously existed.
I would have to dig again, but the 20 Billion figure applied only to those
structures that were covered by insurance - not the many that were not. I do
not know if this figure also included Federal money that was made available
to home owners from FEMA.
My experience was that the FEMA money, although greatful that it was there,
did not come near covering the cost of repair by those who were uninsured. I
might conclude that the cost of damage to residential structures was much
higher than the 20 Billion figure.
Very few of the damaged homes posed a life safety threat. I don't think that
this is really what motivated the majority of concern. I believe this was due
to the ecconomic burden that it placed upon society and upon the Insurance
industry. The social impact was considerable if you consider those
neighborhoods where the owners were not able to afford to repair the damage
or forced to move out and not return. Driving through area's of Los Angeles
in certain area's still remind people of the devastation that was not
This is probably one of the driving forces behind code changes, but the
question is if this is a valid reason when there are other variables in play.
If the causes of the majority of the damage is attributed to construction
ommissions or defects, then enhancing the code does not solve the problem.
The resolution comes from engineers and other professionals taking more
responsiblity in the field. The bigger issue is how to mandate more education
for the builder who is constructing a structural system and has never been
required to interpret the code.
Some might argue that code interpretation is not the responsiblity of
contractors or home owners. I disagree when the code making community
provides a prescriptive method. The layperson must then be aware and comply
with those provisions - something that has not been adequately enforced.
I believe this is the root of the problem and we, as a professional
community, are doing little to overcome historic obstacals which will cause
these problems to proliferate.
Dennis Wish PE