The Building Industry Is Working to Reduce Long-term Costs and Limit Disruptions of Extreme Events

“Resilience is the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and recover rapidly from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring threats or incidents.” —White House Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm. Insured losses topped $41 billion, the costliest U.S. catastrophe in the history of the industry. Studies following the storm indicated that lax enforcement of building codes had significantly increased the number and severity of claims and structural losses. Researchers at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, found that if stronger building codes had been in place, wind damages from Hurricane Katrina would have been reduced by a staggering 80 percent. With one storm, resiliency went from a post-event adjective to a global movement calling for better preparation, response and recovery—not if but when the next major disaster strikes.

CHALLENGES OF AN AGING INFRASTRUCTURE

We can all agree that the U.S. building stock and infrastructure are old and woefully unprepared for climatic events, which will occur in the years ahead. Moving forward, engineering has to be more focused on risk management; historical weather patterns don’t matter because the past is no longer a reliable map for future building-code requirements. On community-wide and building-specific levels, conscientious groups are creating plans to deal with robust weather, climatic events and national security threats through changing codes and standards to improve their capacity to withstand, absorb and recover from stress.

Improvements to infrastructure resiliency, whether they are called risk-management strategies, extreme-weather preparedness or climate-change adaptation, can help a region bounce back quickly from the next storm at considerably less cost. Two years ago, leading groups in America’s design and construction industry issued an Industry Statement on Resiliency, which stated: “We recognize that natural and manmade hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. Aging infrastructure and disasters result in unacceptable losses of life and property, straining our nation’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner. We further recognize that contemporary planning, building materials, and design, construction and operational techniques can make our communities more resilient to these threats.”

With these principles in mind, there has been a coordinated effort to revolutionize building standards to respond to higher demands.

STRENGTHENING BUILDING STANDARDS

Resiliency begins with ensuring that buildings are constructed and renovated in accordance with modern building codes and designed to evolve with change in the built and natural environment. In addition to protecting the lives of occupants, buildings that are designed for resilience can rapidly re-cover from a disruptive event, allowing continuity of operations that can liter- ally save lives.

Disasters are expensive to respond to, but much of the destruction can be prevented with cost-effective mitigation features and advanced planning. A 2005 study funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducted by the Washington-based National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council found that every dollar spent on mitigation would save $4 in losses. Improved building-code requirements during the past decade have been the single, unifying force in driving high-performing and more resilient building envelopes, especially in states that have taken the initiative to extend these requirements to existing buildings.

MITIGATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG TERM

In California, there is an oft-repeated saying that “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Second only to Alaska in frequency of earthquakes and with a much higher population density, California has made seismic-code upgrades a priority, even in the face of financial constraints. Last year, Los Angeles passed an ambitious bill requiring 15,000 buildings and homes to be retrofitted to meet modern codes. Without the changes, a major earth- quake could seriously damage the city’s economic viability: Large swaths of housing could be destroyed, commercial areas could become uninhabitable and the city would face an uphill battle to regain its economic footing. As L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said, “Why are we waiting for an earthquake and then committed to spending billions of dollars, when we can spend millions of dollars before the earthquake, avoid the trauma, avoid the loss of afford- able housing and do so in a preemptive manner that costs us less?”

This preemptive strategy has been adopted in response to other threats, as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., emerged as a national example of electrical resilience with its microgrid, an efficient on-campus power-generation and -delivery network that draws electricity from a gas-turbine generator and solar-panel field. When the New Jersey utility grid went down in the storm, police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency-services workers used Princeton University as a staging ground and charging station for phones and equipment. It also served as a haven for local residents whose homes lost power. Even absent a major storm, the system provides cost efficiency, reduced environmental impact and the opportunity to use renewable energy, making the initial investment a smart one.

ROOFING STANDARDS ADAPT TO MEET DEMANDS

Many of today’s sustainable roofing standards were developed in response to severe weather events. Wind-design standards across the U.S. were bolstered after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with minimum design wind speeds rising by 30-plus mph. Coastal jurisdictions, such as Miami-Dade County, went even further with the development of wind- borne debris standards and enhanced uplift design testing. Severe heat waves and brown-outs, such as the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, prompted that city to require cool roofs on the city’s buildings.

Hurricane Sandy fostered innovation by demonstrating that when buildings are isolated from the supply of fresh water and electricity, roofs could serve an important role in keeping building occupants safe and secure. Locating power and water sources on rooftops would have maintained emergency lighting and water supplies when storm surges threatened systems located in basement utility areas. Thermally efficient roofs could have helped keep buildings more habitable until heating and cooling plants were put back into service.

In response to these changes, there are many opportunities for industry growth and adaptation. Roof designs must continue to evolve to accommodate the increasing presence of solar panels, small wind turbines and electrical equipment moved from basements, in addition to increasing snow and water loads on top of buildings. Potential energy disruptions demand greater insulation and window performance to create a habitable interior environment in the critical early hours and days after a climate event. Roofing product manufacturers will work more closely with the contractor community to ensure that roofing installation practices maximize product performance and that products are tested appropriately for in-situ behavior.

AVERTING FUTURE DISASTERS THROUGH PROACTIVE DESIGN

Rather than trying to do the minimum possible to meet requirements, building practitioners are “thinking beyond the code” to design structures built not just to withstand but to thrive in extreme circumstances. The Tampa, Fla.-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has developed an enhanced set of engineering and building standards called FORTIFIED Home, which are designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to reduce damage from specific natural hazards. Research on roofing materials is ongoing to find systems rigorous enough to withstand hail, UV radiation, temperature fluctuations and wind uplift. New techniques to improve roof installation quality and performance will require more training for roofing contractors and more engagement by manufacturers on the installation of their products to optimize value.

Confronted with growing exposure to disruptive events, the building industry is working cooperatively to meet the challenge of designing solutions that provide superior performance in changing circumstances to reduce long-term costs and limit disruptions. Achieving such integration requires active collaboration among building team members to improve the design process and incorporate new materials and technologies, resulting in high-performing structures that are durable, cost- and resource-efficient, and resilient so when the next disruptive event hits, our buildings and occupants will be ready.

GBRI Courses Assist Building Professionals Earn USGBC LEED Credential

The new LEED v4 Exam Preparation Package from education leaders GBRI (Green Building Research Institute) is an innovative way for green building professionals, architects and engineers to earn their LEED credential, signifying their in-depth knowledge of the LEED rating system, building codes and standards. The GBRI approach to LEED education allows green building professionals to earn their USGBC LEED Credential quickly and easily: using the live online, in-person and online on-demand learning modules, professionals can achieve their LEED credential in as little as four weeks. “Having worked in the field ourselves for decades, we get it. It’s no easy task to make time for exam preparation: professionals today need the online, on-demand and in-person flexibility that our courses offer,” commented Kayla Gerstenberg, director of education.

There is no pre-requisite necessary to take the LEED exam; the all-inclusive LEED v4 Exam Preparation Package includes everything professionals need to study for and pass the exam successfully. The package includes a study guide, online learning modules, and comprehensive practice exams with over 500 test questions (and explanations for each question). Offered online, online on-demand, and in-person, the course caters to many different learning styles and time schedules. Materials such as MP3 audio files, flash cards designed for studying on-the-go and memory charts are made available to aid the learning process. As GBRI boasts a large network of highly qualified instructors, courses are offered at locations throughout the United States and the world – from Vermont to Dubai.

Professionals can select from numerous specialties within the LEED credential: LEED Green Associate (GA), LEED AP Building Design + Construction (BD + C) and LEED AP Operations + Maintenance (O+M). Courses start at $199, and once signed up, students gain instant access so they can begin working toward their LEED credential immediately. To register or access more information about the online and on-demand online package, click here.

Four Lessons from the Worst Catastrophic Roofing Errors

From dog shaming to funny videos, it seems to be human nature to giggle at other people’s mistakes. But a dog that ate the toddler’s crayons and is now pooping rainbows is one thing. Roof management mistakes can be dangerous, inconvenient and incredibly expensive. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest roofing disasters of the last few years and see what we can learn from them:

1. Risk vs. Reward

When Hurricane Wilma roared into Miami-Dade County, Florida, most people thought the area was prepared. After all, building codes at the time required the ability to withstand winds of 146 mph, significantly faster than Wilma’s highest recorded winds. Imagine a building owner’s surprise when his roof peeled right off the building. As it turned out, the problem wasn’t with the roof itself but with the way it was secured—or wasn’t secured—to the walls. Despite the fact that building codes required a continuous cleat, there wasn’t one in use. In an attempt to save the $3,000 it would have cost to use the continuous cleat, the building owner set himself up to sustain damages of around $400,000. From a roof management risk versus reward perspective, that decision was a really big “oops”.

2. Don’t Cut Corners

A building in North Carolina also lost its roof to high winds. The failure was caused by insufficient anchoring of the roof. During construction, the wood blocking for the roof had been attached directly to the top row of bricks. When the building was reconstructed, the new design called fora bond beam and anchor bolts. Those simple adjustments created a roof that was ready to withstand winds much higher than those that spelled doom for the original roof.

3. Never Run Before You Can Walk

Green roofs are all the rage, and that trend is practically guaranteed to continue for years to come. However, businesses have been incorporating sustainability into their plans so quickly there hasn’t always been time to identify best practices. Sloped green roofs are a good example. The problem with these is a lack of proper drainage and an inadequate growing medium. When those two ingredients are combined with rain or snow, the result can be a load that far exceeds the weight the roof is designed to handle, which can lead to leaks, mudslides and, in the worst cases, roof collapse. For example, in St. Charles, Ill., a green roof collapsed after a heavy snowstorm, causing extensive (and expensive) damage to the facility.

4. Not All Materials Are Equal

During the Big Dig construction project in Boston, a section of ceiling collapsed, killing one person and halting work (and causing traffic backups) for nearly a year. The problem was deemed to be the system of anchors and epoxy used in the construction process. Or, more accurately, the inadequacy of those items. The anchors were shorter than required, and the epoxy used to fasten the anchors to the concrete was below standards. As with the roof damaged by Hurricane Wilma, this is a situation in which shortcuts—in this case, subpar materials—resulted in costs that far exceeded what it would have cost to do the job right from the beginning.

The most striking thing about these catastrophic roof management failures is that the factors that led to them aren’t all that unusual. The losses weren’t the result of inconceivably stupid mistakes that leave the industry asking, “How could that have happened?” What’s striking is that shortcuts like these are far too common. It’s just that, most of the time, nothing happens. The roof never fails, so the shortcuts are never discovered.

However, when something does go wrong, careers are destroyed, businesses and individuals go bankrupt, and lives are lost or ruined. Don’t gamble with shortcuts when it comes to roof management. It’s possible that nothing will ever go wrong. If it does, however, things will never be the same and it’s just not worth it.

AEP Span, ASC Building Products Granted IAPMO’s Uniform Evaluation Service Evaluation Report ER-0309

AEP Span and ASC Building Products have been granted IAPMO’s Uniform Evaluation Service (UES) Evaluation Report ER-0309 which demonstrates compliance to the 2012 and 2009 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC).

IAPMO’s UES program lowers the cost and increases the value to code officials of these reports by combining all of these recognitions in one concise report prepared by an internationally recognized product certification body.

The UES ER-0309 states the Single Skin Steel Roof and Wall Panels with Concealed Fasteners listed in the report satisfy the applicable code requirements which allow for the specification of AEP Span and ASC Building Products listed panels to architects, contractors, specifiers, and designers, and approval of installation by code officials. It also provides code officials with a concise summary of the products’ attributes and documentation of code compliance included in the report. The UES program is built upon IAPMO’s more than 70 years of experience in evaluating products for code compliance, and their evaluation services are ISO

Guide 65 Compliant by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and meet the requirements of IBC/CBC Section 1703 for approval agencies.

ASC Profiles LLC is a subsidiary of BlueScope Steel and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metals Corporation. ASC Profiles is an industry leading manufacturer of cold-formed steel building components since 1971. ASC Profiles consists of three distinct business divisions, each serving a different market segment within the industry. ASC Steel Deck delivers a high quality line of structural roof and floor deck that has been fully tested for the commercial construction market. AEP Span provides architecturally engineered panels for steel roof and siding products for the commercial and industrial markets. ASC Building Products offers high quality steel roof and wall panels for the residential, light commercial, and agricultural markets.

NRCA Offers New and Updated Technical Publications

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has added several new and updated publications to its library of technical offerings, including a publication that provides guidelines for complying with building codes.

Guidelines for Complying with Building Codes Using ANSI/SPRI ES-1 is NRCA’s newest publication, addressing building code compliance with ANSI/SPRI ES-1, “Wind Design Standard for Edge Systems Used with Low Slope Roof Systems.” The document provides guidelines and technical information about the design, materials, fabrication and installation of edge-metal flashings for compliance with ANSI/SPRI ES-1 and applicable requirements of the International Building Code.

Also recently released is NRCA Guidelines for Architectural Metal Flashings, which includes comprehensive information about metal used in low- and steep-slope roof systems. It also gives design considerations such as joinery, protective coatings and galvanic action.

In addition, the updated version of NRCA Guidelines for Asphalt Shingle Roof Systems 2014 is a more comprehensive look at NRCA’s best practice guidelines and technical information regarding the materials, design and installation of asphalt shingle roof systems.

For more information about NRCA’s newest publications and other technical offerings, visit NRCA’s website.