In Building Code Discussions, Hail Is a Costly and Often Overlooked Peril

A midsized community can reduce hail damage by up to 20% by adopting and enforcing often-overlooked building codes, says a new report by the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.

The savings could add up to between $4 million and $8 million annually for a town of 50,000, says the University of Pennsylvania’s risk-management school. However, most U.S. states lack statewide building codes and instead leave hail-loss mitigation to individual municipalities.

“Usually [hailstorms] don’t create the media attention associated with other natural hazards such as tornadoes as few people perish in these storms, but property damage can be as high as tornadoes, and more significantly hail storms happen much more frequently,” says the report.

Non-hurricane wind and hail losses in the U.S. are the second highest cat peril loss cost behind fire, says the Wharton Center. Property losses from hailstorms are estimated at $1.6 billion per year, with the worst-ever recorded hail event costing $26 billion in claims in 2011. Two-thirds of the U.S. experiences at least one hailstorm annually, and 44% of the country gets hit by two to three in one year.

Historically, says the report, roofing-related building codes have been primarily concerned with fire resistance and the structural loading of snow, wind and drainage, while the impact of hail resistance is not much of a concern. Furthermore, the International Building Code (IBC) does not require roofing materials to be impact-proof.  However, the report found that homes with impact-resistant asphalt shingle roofs were 40% to 60% less likely to have a loss claim.

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