Serious code issues never make the news … unless it’s about a disaster or sensational failure.
Sadly, we usually only hear or read about codes in the wake of disasters involving buildings and other manmade structures. A good case in point is the recent catastrophic fire in a London high-rise apartment building where it is alleged that unapproved, possibly illegal, materials were used in a renovation that resulted in extensive destruction and tragic loss of life.
All too often we learn about structural failures resulting in scores of deaths caused by faulty engineering and construction, the use of substandard components, inadequate safety systems, improper utilization of spaces, and so on. In truth, even these types of events make the news hour or the front page only because they are too sensational to be ignored by the viewer or reader.
The reason for the absence of coverage related to building codes and regulations is pretty obvious; they’re just not sexy topics for most people. Those who produce news coverage are in the business of attracting eyeballs and, frankly, code development, adoption, and enforcement are not very exciting subjects that stop people and grab their attention. A building that performs the way it is intended to is not newsworthy.
I already knew this but that didn’t prevent me from coming away quite stunned by the lack of interest on the part of real estate writers I talked with at the recent summer conference of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. This is a top-tier group of professional, award winning journalists who specialize in all things real estate. Well, almost all things.
After attending numerous presentations and speaking directly with a couple of dozen of these NAREE writers and editors it became totally clear that codes, regulations, energy efficiency, resiliency, and any topics falling under the category of sustainable development and building are simply not on their radar screens.
This is not an indictment of these folks; after all, they write and report about what their readers want, which turns out to be information and data on real estate investment and the business side of the industry. Apparently, they are just not being asked about much of anything other than the bottom line. They discuss the topic of affordability extensively and dissect it in great detail but from the perspective of profitability only.
If we hope to make building codes relevant to the population at large we are going to have to come up with much more compelling ways of expressing their importance and give everyone who has a stake in shelter and the built environment a reason to pay attention to the subject.
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