May 29, 2003
MECKLENBURG COUNTY EARNS TOP RATING FOR COMMERCIAL BUILDING SAFETY
Charlotte, NC - When it comes to ensuring the safe construction of commercial buildings, Mecklenburg County has a perfect score, according to an insurance industry advisory company. Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement received the highest rating possible from the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) - ONE on a scale of 1 to 10 - for its enforcement of the commercial building code. Mecklenburg County is one of only four jurisdictions in the nation to receive the high score.
The ratings are administered by ISO, a national firm that advises the insurance industry. ISO reviews code enforcement agencies and assigns a rating based on how well buildings in the community would weather hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Insurance companies use the ratings to help assess risk and determine premiums.
Mecklenburg County achieved the Class 1 rating by focusing on continuous improvements in the commercial building inspection and plan review process, including training for building personnel, employment of licensed professional engineers and architects for inspection and plan review, and high level quality control. Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement has also implemented many services to help contractors and developers comply with the building code. Those services include express plan review, a new Web site and online inspection scheduling.
"We believe this top rating is a significant achievement for our code enforcement authority," says Harry Jones, Mecklenburg County Manager. "It demonstrates the commitment our code enforcement personnel have to ensuring all construction in Mecklenburg County meets the N.C. building code and is safe for occupancy."
ISO's building code program was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when it became clear that lack of adequate code enforcement contributed to almost one-fourth of the $19.6 billion in insured property losses. Other jurisdictions to receive a 1 rating are Coral Gables, FL; Fremont, CA; and Asheville, NC.
"In communities with favorable grades, ISO's program provides for credits on personal and commercial property insurance premiums ranging from 1 percent to 15 percent for commercial buildings constructed in the year ISO's evaluation is completed or later," explained Dennis N. Gage, manager of ISO's Risk Decision Services unit. "The prospect of lower catastrophe-related damage and improved loss experience is a powerful financial incentive for communities to enforce building codes more rigorously, especially codes that relate to windstorms and earthquakes."
ISO evaluates these three broad categories of factors in building-code enforcement by communities, with greatest emphasis on code enforcement as it relates to natural hazards:
· Municipal administrative support for code enforcement.
· Enforcement functions that determine levels of compliance.
· Quality of field inspections.
The building-code initiative is similar to ISO's program to evaluate the effectiveness of communities' fire-fighting capabilities, which has long been a factor used by insurers in determining rates for commercial property and homeowners insurance.
The Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement is a consolidated authority serving Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, and the towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Mint Hill, Matthews, and Pineville. It is one of the largest code enforcement authorities in the southeast, issuing more than 70,000 residential and commercial permits a year and performing more than 300,000 inspections a year.