When it comes to design and construction, it pays to invest in disaster mitigation. That was a message from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) this week, amid its annual Building Innovation conference. In a recent report for a multi-year study, NIBS found a national benefit of as much as $11 for every $1 invested into mitigation strategies around safety, the prevention of property loss and disruption of day-to-day life—all of which leading experts say should be a primary focus amid increasing costs for natural disasters.

“In 2017 we saw 16 natural disasters causing a billion dollars or more in damages,” Ryan Colker, NIBS vice president tells DWM magazine. “Coupled with that, over 300 billion dollars in damage from those 16 events in 2017, which far exceeds any number in the past.”

At the same time, those numbers are slated to increase farther, Colker and other experts suggest.

Released this week, NIBS’s report, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report, includes a compilation of findings, stemming from prior year reports and studies. The multi-year look examines the benefits of designing buildings to meet the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) and 2018 International Building Code (IBC)—the model building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC)—versus prior generations of codes represented by 1990-era design and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. In 2015, an NIBS study determined that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mitigation grants posted a benefit-cost ratio of 4:1. More recently, the project found that code-related mitigation produced a more than ten-fold return on every $1 invested—including in communities where commonly adopted code requirements are consistently met. Collectively, those instances added approximately 30,000 new jobs to the construction-materials industries.

Meanwhile, “Two main areas that influence how a home responds to a disaster includes the roof and openings, so I think it’s certainly appropriate to have this discussion within the windows and doors community,” Colker says.

Among the mitigation strategies examined by NIBS’s project team for resistance to hurricane winds, complying with requirements for openings and connections (as detailed in the 2018 I-Codes) saved $10 for every $1 invested.

By and large, the message is: codes work, suggests Jeffrey Inkssenior vice president of advocacy for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA).

“The building codes are more ‘there’ than they ever have been, and they continue to get more ‘there’ with every revision,” Inks says. “I think we have to rely on that.” Regarding what’s in current codes pertaining to design pressures, design requirements and wind loads, “We have a tremendous amount of sound data and science, and the best engineering minds behind all of that,” Ink suggests.

That said, with costs for disaster mitigation increasing, it also pays to think ahead, says Jon Westcott, an engineer in Federal Emergency Management Agency’sBuilding Science branch.

“The cost of disasters continues to increase,” Westcott tells DWM. Meanwhile, “A lot of design today is based off of historic wind maps, historic flood maps, or flood maps based off of historic data, and doesn’t always give a good picture of what [may occur] over the life of a building.”

In order to mitigate the future, it’s imperative that buildings—and products—be easily retrofittable, Westcott suggests.

Look for additional coverage on the subjects of resilient construction and disaster mitigation in DWM’s upcoming print edition.

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