Buildings and Equipment: Mastering One of the Most Complex Categories of Work



...constructed. Thus, FEMA considers eligible those upgrades required to meet current reasonable codes and standards related to the facility’s repair or replacement.

Eligible codes and standards include local, state and federal requirements related to repairs and/or new construction of facilities. The standard must be triggered by the damages; for example, if a particular upgrade is required for new construction, but not for repairs, it would only be eligible for FEMA funding if the facility was being replaced. In the case of repairs, FEMA generally pays only for upgrades related directly to the portion of the facility damaged by the event, even if the repair activity triggers a code requirement that impacts the entire building (e.g., installation of a full facility sprinkler system when only a portion of the building was damaged) — unless the code was required based on the amount of repair, in which case it would be considered for funding.

It is important to note that the human factor enters into the equation here. In many cases, such as the sprinkler system example just provided, a determination regarding whether FEMAwill fund a code upgrade will depend on its interpretation of whether the action and costs are reasonable relative to the type and extent of the repair. This is where proof of codes adoption, previous code enforcement activities and, if available, a benefit-cost analysis, will prove useful.

Applicants should keep in mind federal building codes that are required of all projects funded using federal dollars. These include EO 12699, Seismic Safety of Federal and Federally Assisted or Regulated New Building Construction, which requires that “all eligible construction of new buildings under the PA Program use appropriate seismic design and construction standards and practices. This is true regardless of the cause of the declared disaster and even if the applicant does not have applicable local or State seismic codes. … If a damaged building is eligible for replacement, the costs of meeting required and reasonable seismic codes are also eligible.”

These federal codes also include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to the restoration of damaged facilities under the Stafford Act and “requires that any building or facility that is accessible to the public or any residence or workplace be accessible to and useable by disabled persons. … FEMA will provide funds to comply with ADA when replacing a facility, whether or not the facility met compliance prior to the disaster.

“FEMA considers as eligible those upgrades required to meet current reasonable codes and standards related to the facility’s repair or replacement.”