Representatives from the insurance industry, housing industry, Mississippi Department of Insurance and members of the state Legislature post with Mississippi governor Phil Bryant at the ceremonial signing of the state's new building code law. Photo credit: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
Mississippi governor Phil Bryant poses with representatives of the insurance industry, housing industry and legislature in April at the ceremonial signing of the state’s new building code law. Photo credit: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety

Mississippi’s lack of a statewide building code was a hot topic of discussion in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Since that time, the state has had ongoing dialogue on how to make the highly vulnerable area safer structurally.

This year, those efforts have made their way onto legal paper.

Come August, a new set of building codes will be put in effect in Mississippi, as governor Phil Bryant signed legislation last month implementing a “statewide” building code.

The law calls for counties and municipalities to adopt one of the last three versions of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code in their respective jurisdictions. Both codes, as put forth by the International Code Council, have been adopted by most states throughout the U.S.

However, Mississippi’s new law allows the board of supervisors of a given county and/or the governing authorities of any municipality 120 days to opt out of the code requirements, as Mississippi is among the 10 states, according to the ICC’s website, to have implemented only a limited version of IBC or IRC statewide requirements.

“It’s a step in right direction . . . But the opt out provision is problematic with this legislation,” says Dr. Tim Reinhold, senior vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Since all jurisdictions have until December 1 to opt out of the code requirements, the effectiveness of the law is, at minimum, half a year away from being determined. There’s no telling at this point what the actual participation level will be throughout the state. Plus, from August 1 forward, there will be an adjustment period for implementation, which will extend to December and beyond, depending on how quickly individual jurisdictions enforce the code.

“We want to be supportive, we don’t want to criticize it,” says IBHS manager of codes and standards Si Farvardin. “But we have some questions as to how it’s going to be administered.”

With a wait-and-see approach, Reinhold and Farvardin say they’re hoping for the best regarding individual jurisdictions’ participation in the code adoption, because simply put, those counties and municipalities that do will be safer for it. The IBHS has been vocal in backing Mississippi’s efforts toward establishing statewide standards, as has been the trend throughout the U.S.

According to the ICC’s website, as of March, only two states in the country – Delaware and Kansas – do not have some form of at least “limited” statewide implementation of either the IBC or IRC. Both, however, have seen local governments adopt the codes.

Thirty-eight states have implemented one of the two — while a majority have implemented both — with no limitations.

With widespread usage of the codes throughout the country, manufacturers and dealers have already been selling products that meet basic safety requirements in them.

Therefore, while he can’t speak to the construction industry as a whole, DuPont protective glazing marketing manager David Rinehart doesn’t see Mississippi’s new law and potential implementation of the codes directly affecting the local glazing market in a major way, considering the industry standards that have already been in place.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect business opportunity,” says Rinehart. “With regard to product availability, it’s certainly there.

“I think this is an example of already-established industry protocol … I look at it as if Mississippi is aligning itself with the current industry practice.”