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BCEGS: Because Rules are There for a Reason

Robert Ferrell
June 28, 2022

Building codes are the sets of rules and standards that guide how buildings and non-building structures are constructed. They are the laws that have been put in place in order to protect public health, safety, and general welfare.

The Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®) encourages the implementation and enforcement of effective, up-to-date building codes. Effective building code enforcement should result in safer buildings, less damage, and lower insurer costs from catastrophes.

For property insurers, knowing more about building codes in a community helps you better understand the risk you’re taking on and more accurately determine premiums.

A historical perspective on building codes

The first documented reference to building codes dates to 1772 B.C. in ancient Babylon.1 Within the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest recorded writings of its length in the world, there are special stipulations as to how buildings should be constructed. Here is an example:

“If a builder builds a house for someone, even though he has not yet completed it;  if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.”

inspector conducts a routine building inspectionEnsuring that building codes are followed helps keep a community safe.


BCEGS: How it Can Help You Make Better Underwriting Decisions


The regulation of building construction has modernized significantly from ancient times, becoming more complex and often addressing specific historical concerns. Modern-day building codes are often influenced by major events: the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Catastrophes have taught us a lot, helping in part to codify the codes which we follow today.

Modern building codes

Though there is not a standard nationwide code, many jurisdictions follow the International Code Council (ICC) I-Codes.2 These codes include the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC), and the International Fire Code (IFC). Worldwide, there are nearly 2 billion people impacted by I-Codes.

Even with the growing standardization of building codes, each local government may have its own specialized codes and standards. Because of this, it is important for raters and underwriters to have a source for localized code information, including a working understanding of how well a community enforces its codes.


The Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule evaluates both the community’s codes and the degree to which they are enforced. It places special emphasis on building code requirements designed to mitigate losses from natural hazards.

When a catastrophe strikes, communities with effective, well-enforced, up-to-date building codes should experience fewer losses. Strict adherence to codes and enforcement can also lead to lower insurance rates overall. The prospect of less damage and lower insurance costs provides an incentive for communities to follow the rules and rigorously enforce their building codes.

A BCEGS evaluation process starts when WSRB collects three types of information from a building department:•	Administration of Codes: Includes a review of the building code edition in use, modification of the codes, training and certification of code enforcers, the qualifications of building officials, public-awareness programs, participation in code-development activities and the appeal process. •	Plan Review: Includes a review of staffing levels, experience of personnel, and level of detail in the plan review process. •	Field inspections: Includes a look at staffing levels, experience of personnel, detail level of inspections, final inspections and issuance of occupancy certificates.bcegs-bullets-3

construction in downtown seattle with clouds in the backgroundNew construction follows the local area's most recently
implemented building codes.


The WSRB Guide to Community Ratings


After we analyze this data, WSRB assigns the community classification of 1 to 10. Classification 1 represents an exemplary commitment to building code enforcement; a classification of 10 indicates no recognizable building code enforcement. Any building constructed the year a community is classified or later is eligible for the same classification code, to use for insurance rating and underwriting purposes.

Learn more

Find out how to look up a BCEGS classification on the Subscriber portion of our website and get answers to common BCEGS questions.

In addition to manual BCEGS lookup, we offer all Subscribers the option to access our data through an API, allowing you to have BCEGS data fed directly into your underwriting system and saving you time.

To set up an API, your information technology team will need to work with our technology solutions team. The setup process is quick and can be completed within a few days. Contact us at 206-217-9772 or by clicking here to begin the process.


[1] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_code

[2] ICC, https://www.iccsafe.org/about/who-we-are

Robert Ferrell, P.E. is WSRB’s Vice President of Public Protection. He leads the team that manages the insurance rating of cities, fire districts and building departments throughout Washington state. He has more than 25 years of experience in fire insurance rating.



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