New FLASH Product: Online College Course on Residential Building Codes

Here’s an odd fact about residential building codes. Although they are universally accepted as vital to public safety (not to mention legally enforceable), very few colleges or universities systematically offer courses about their development, role, or application.

Until now.

Thanks to research and a project by FLASH, a new online course about residential building codes is available online. Clemson University will be the first to offer it next year, with additional universities and professional associations soon to follow.

The course will fill a critical knowledge gap in the education and development of future professionals who impact the disaster safety and resilience movement, including construction managers, engineers, planners, risk managers, meteorologists, and more. The 32 module course is the result of more than two years of collaboration, research, and work by our team with our academic, private, and public sector partners, including FEMA.

We started by conducting surveys and literature reviews to define the need for a building codes course in higher education. Then, we worked to identify an efficient way to teach the information and test for mastery.

We now know—and have documented—that many professionals working in architecture firms, civil engineering companies, and construction say building codes are a worthy academic topic. They wish they had learned about them in college, and they recommend them for today’s students.

There is also growing understanding inside colleges and universities that building code knowledge will help students better understand their industries.

For our part, as you can imagine, we see this knowledge as essential to creating a disaster-resilient nation.

That’s why we’re also making it available outside academic settings. In addition to use in college coursework under the guidance of a professor, the course can be taken as a free, self-directed, non-credit course.

Topics are broad-based with topics on the history, purpose, and practical applications of building codes through discussions and assignments in each module. Students will complete interesting projects and apply codes to real-world problems, so they have an overview of the development of codes as well as how they apply to the design and construction industries.

One of the most fundamental aspects of our work to advance disaster resilience is the need to embed basic appreciation and understanding of technical information into society. The next generation of professionals must appreciate that building codes are a nonnegotiable necessity to create resilient communities that withstand and bounce back from disasters. This new course is one effort to educate the creators of our future built environment.

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