Plan to Loosen Seismic Codes Could Save Homebuyers Money

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(Memphis) The cost of building a house in Shelby County could soon skyrocket from 15-50% due to new earthquake codes according to the Shelby County Commission.

Now the Memphis City Council and county commissioners are looking at a resolution that would loosen some seismic codes they recently adopted in order to keep the homebuilding costs down.

It’s no secret a major fault line runs through the Mid-South.

It’s not as active as those in California, but building codes in Shelby County are now the same as those in San Francisco.

For example under the new codes homes cannot have brick on the second floor and have to have extra steel enforced walls in every room.

Another safety code is steel panel reinforcements on each side of the garage door.

The purpose behind this is if your house collapses during an earthquake, it will keep the frame of your house sturdy, so you can back your car out if you need to get to safety.

All of the upgrades to newly built homes come with a cost.

Kim Grant Brown is Vice President of the West Tennessee Homebuilders Association and says the new codes will dramatically increase the cost of building and buying a home.

She says they already build homes safely and follow existing codes and the new rules are overkill, “We already bolting the house and tie the houses down. A lot of this stuff we already do and we are already building safe houses. This is just over the top.”

Commissioner Heidi Shafer says they are considering both sides and the scientific research, “What we’re really wanting to take a look at is if the new building codes actually save lives. Is it worth the cost benefit ratio.”

She expects the commission will decide on the codes within the month, “Who wants to live in a home that has no chance of giving you enough time to get out of the building, or at least getting into a safe part of the building so you will be in a protected pocket.”