A construction worker passes where trees line the beer garden at Alamo Beer Company. Photo by Scott Ball.
A construction worker passes where trees line the beer garden at Alamo Beer Company. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio has become the 12th city in the country and the only city in Texas to receive a Business Code Effectiveness Rating of 1, the highest rating possible, from Insurance Services Office, Inc (ISO).

The rating means that business owners can expect to see lower insurance premiums for their buildings. ISO is an independent rating organization that provides rating information on city building enforcement departments to insurers. The firm surveys cities every five years in an evaluation of the adoption and enforcement of building codes and assigns a rating from 1-10, with 1 being the highest.

The City’s Development Services Department (DSD) oversees the coordination of land and building development, from personal home renovations to the construction of businesses.

This is a marked improvement for San Antonio, a city that had an 8 rating in 1999. In a news release, City Manager Sheryl Scully stated that the rating reflects San Antonio’s “exemplary commitment to building code adoption and enforcement.” The city joins the ranks of Roanoke, Va., Palo Alto, Ca., and Bellevue, Neb.

DSD Director Rod Sanchez told the Rivard Report in a Monday phone interview that it’s extremely hard to receive the score and that the high rating puts San Antonio in an elite group to compete for business.

“ISO is an independent organization that works for the insurance industries to take a look at us and how well we protect the public,” he explained. “(Rating) 1 is like walking on water, it’s very hard to get. It shows that we’re adopting the latest and greatest codes, our projects are certified, and we have trained people to do inspections.”

The rating not only benefits builders, but everyone in San Antonio, Sanchez added. It shows that projects are being built with safety in mind.

“It’s a risk thing. If buildings are built safer then there’s less chance of a fire,” he said. “That could impact a lower insurance rate for businesses.”

For residential construction, San Antonio was graded a 2. Sanchez argues that that’s the best anybody can do in the state.

“Insurance companies just don’t like Texas,” he said. “There’s a Texas law against installing fire sprinklers in a home and insurance companies frown upon that. It may be impossible to get the highest residential rating with that state law.”

But he’s not deterred, and says that the ratings overall give San Antonio a stellar reputation.

“They know that we have our act together here,” Sanchez said, “and it’s really showing off with this rating.”

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.