A National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) study determined that every federal grant dollar spent on disaster resiliency and mitigation can save the U.S. an average of six dollars. In addition, NIBS found that for every dollar spent on building to a higher standard than select building codes require could save the nation four dollars.
NIBS studied mitigation measures such as demolishing flood-prone homes; using hurricane shutters and other wind-resistant strategies; shoring up building strength in earthquake-prone areas; and replacing roofs and wooden water tanks for fire resistance. For new construction, the agency’s study looked at building homes to higher standards than what building codes require; following the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Fortified Home Hurricane standards; exceeding seismic construction standards; and building more fire-resistant buildings through adherence to the 2015 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code.
NIBS also projected that implementing resiliency measures and building to stricter codes could create 87,000 new long-term jobs and increase use of American-made construction materials by 1%.
Last year – and during the first few weeks of 2018 – the U.S. saw devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, winter storms and mudslides take lives and significantly damage property from coast to coast, as well as impact the country’s territory of Puerto Rico. The island is still struggling to restore electrical service to about 40% of customers, although Hurricane Maria hit in September.
Earlier this month, global reinsurer Munich RE estimated that the world’s losses due to natural disasters total $330 billion, but said only $135 billion of those damages were insured. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria alone will cost $215 billion in damages.
Because of these recent disasters, more leaders in the construction and design industries, as well as at regulatory agencies, are on board with the idea of resilient design. Texas state officials, reportedly with the support of the local building community, announced a $61 billion plan to rebuild after Harvey overwhelmed Southeast Texas with rain and floodwaters, and resilient measures are part of the plan. Like the NIBS report suggested, the plan involves buying out properties in flood zones, but also will see the addition of “coastal spines” to control future flooding and the construction of new reservoirs.
In addition, the U.S. Green Building Council has adopted a new resilient construction standard called RELi. The new certification system includes some LEED practices and gives property owners points for features like adaptive design for extreme weather, resilient and urban food prediction, and access to emergency supplies.