White House Event Stresses Resiliency In Building Codes/Standards

The White House is hosting a Conference on Resilient Building Codes today to highlight the critical role of building codes in furthering community resilience and the importance of incorporating resilience and the future impacts of climate change in the codes and standards development process. As part of the conference, the Administration highlighted federal and private sector efforts aimed at advancing the principles of resilience in building codes and standards and building design. View the proceedings here.

Resilient Building Codes
Source: The White House/YouTube

ASHRAE is among the organizations taking part in the event.

“The built environment industry strives to design, construct and operate buildings to withstand both natural disasters and man-made hazards,” said ASHRAE President David Underwood. “We must use the knowledge gleaned from disasters like the recent earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan, Superstorm Sandy, flooding in India and others, as well as predictions of the effects of climate change, to our advantage to save lives and infrastructure in the future. ASHRAE is pleased to be part of this effort with allied organizations and make these commitments to protect the public and building stock.”

ASHRAE Director-at-Large Mick Schwedler served on a conference panel focused on codes and standards. Participants discussed the work being done by the codes and standards community as well as how that community can better support state and local officials who are faced with the challenges of cost and risk perceptions. Others on the panel represented the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), the International Code council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

A Resiliency Report

Also today, ASHRAE, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), NIBS, and 37 other other leaders of America’s design and construction industry released a report on progress made on the resilience front since the Resilience Building Coalition announced the Building Industry Statement on Resilience two years ago.

“It is an especially opportune time that today, the very day the White House held a Conference on Building Code Resilience, is the day that we are releasing this report,” said National Institute of Building Sciences President Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA. “Improving the nation’s resilience requires the commitment of the U.S. building industry, the federal government, and the nation’s communities. I am proud to see the organizational progress the members of the Building Resilience Coalition have made in just two years. Yet, it is imperative for the safety of the nation’s citizens that we continue to stay the course to reach critical resilience goals.”

The Resilience Building Coalition also released a set of guiding principles to help the building industry adopt resilient design and policies. These include developing and advocating for codes and policies that advance resilience; developing “whole-systems resilient design” approaches for the built environment; and providing guidance, beyond the baseline life-safety codes, that recognizes the importance of fortifying property for individual and community resilience. The report, along with additional resources on resiliency, can be viewed here.

The report includes results from a survey of signatories about how their work has been impacted by the Building Industry Statement on Resilience. Among the survey’s major findings:

  • A majority of signatories report that they have “become more aware of their unique role in achieving resilience” since committing to the statement, which has clearly catalyzed the integration of resilience goals into existing organizational frameworks.
  • Almost 30 percent of respondents have seen an increase in resilience as a priority within their organizations.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents listed high-performance buildings as an initiative they were most interested in advancing.
  • More than half of the responding signatories have used the Statement to “advance their organizational mission statement/values,” as well as “provide support and/or validation for moving forward on organization initiatives.” This shift in organizational priorities has led to concrete action.
  • Respondents reported more than 40 initiatives they have begun that support the resilience focus areas committed to in the Statement. The National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC) and Council on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (CFIRE) jointly developed a white paper, entitled Developing Pre-Disaster Resilience Based on Public and Private Incentivization, to address the need for a coordinated approach among a broad spectrum of stakeholders. In addition, the MMC is in the process of revisiting its well-known 2005 Mitigation Saves study, which looked at public-sector investment, to study the significant benefits that can be achieved from investing in mitigation at the private-sector level.

The Coalition report, Preparing to Thrive: The Building Industry Statement on Resilience, is an outgrowth of a landmark agreement made in May 2014, in which leaders of America’s design and construction industry agreed to promote resilience in contemporary planning, building materials, design, construction, and operational techniques as the solution for making the nation’s aging infrastructure more safe and secure.