IBHS Commends White House on Natural Disasters Report

The following is a statement from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) President and CEO Julie Rochman:
 
“We commend the Obama Administration’s efforts to make our nation more resilient to natural disasters – which are summarized in a blog and new report entitled ‘Standards and Finance to Support Community Resilience.’
 
“Every American should appreciate that, when homes and businesses remain standing in the aftermath of a natural disaster, communities retain economic viability because people get back to work more quickly, less federal and state aid is needed, and less storm debris ends up in landfills.
 
“The report will help ensure that communities hit by natural disasters don’t just rebuild, but build back stronger and smarter to withstand the next storm.  The report also encourages the public and private sectors to invest in resilience now, which pays off beyond the obvious safety benefits with reduced storm losses, lower insurance costs, enhanced market values for homes and bottom-line savings for businesses.
 
“By bringing together and working with multiple federal agencies, along with state, local, and tribal leaders, as well as industry and non-profit groups, the White House has both demonstrated thought leadership and set an example for future leaders at all levels. The multi-pronged approach to promote stronger and safer buildings, including innovative financing, and other measures that can reduce the devastation and costs of severe weather events, will help secure our economy, as well as families, businesses, and communities in every state. 
 
“We are pleased that the White House report once again recognizes the effectiveness and market value of IBHS’ FORTIFIED Home program as one that builds community resilience. As part of our work in the area of resilience, IBHS is announcing our commitment to deploy a FORTIFIED Commercial standard and program in 2017 to support resilient design and retrofits for commercial, retail, and public buildings. Using the same science-based foundation upon which FORTIFIED Home sits, FORTIFIED Commercial will address new and existing small and mid-sized commercial structures. FORTIFIED Commercial building designations will be available for hurricane risk along the coast, as well as for high wind and hail risk further inland, first in the state of Alabama, and then in other states as well.”

Interactive Tablet App Provides Information to Strengthen Structures Against Natural Disasters

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app gives information to strengthen homes against natural disasters.

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app gives information to strengthen homes against natural disasters.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Munich Re, US launches an interactive tablet app to help builders, contractors, architects and homeowners design and build structures in the face of increasing severe weather events.

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app is available for free download from the iTunes Store.  It walks homeowners, contractors and architects through the steps for strengthening homes. The information includes videos, animations and technical specifications for retrofitting or building single family homes.

Information in the app is taken from IBHS’ FORTIFIED Home program, which provides a set of building standards for homes in high-risk areas, such as in the plains and coastal states.

A Coastal Home Is Built to Withstand the Severe Weather that Destroyed Its Predecessor

Dave Caldwell doesn’t have to travel into the future to see how a sustainable beach house—a complete rebuild of a home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy—in Westerly, R.I., will survive the next major storm. Half an hour northeast along the coastline, on the ocean side of Narragansett Bay, stands a testament to resiliency, another new home that Caldwell built in October 2012, just two weeks before Sandy swept in.

The Westerly, R.I., coastal home features an asphalt laminate shingle and integrated solar shingle roofing system.

The Westerly, R.I., coastal home features an asphalt laminate shingle and integrated solar shingle roofing system.

Featuring the same asphalt laminate shingle and integrated solar shingle roofing system, the Narragansett Bay home weathered the worst storm to hit the Ocean State in more than half a century, emerging unscathed while 1,000 other coastal Rhode Island properties incurred a combined $35 million in damage. The home’s survival demonstrated the power of construction techniques used to protect against the forces of nature—techniques that Caldwell repeated in the re-creation of the Westerly home.

For Caldwell, the second-generation owner of North Kingstown, R.I.-based Caldwell & Johnson, a design-build firm founded in 1968, the construction industry’s response to Hurricane Sandy only validates an approach to sustainable building that emphasizes long-term value over one-time costs. He says the owners of the Westerly home, a retired couple from South Carolina, were not afraid to put a little money into making the building stout and durable after their previous home was destroyed by the storm. “The goal,” he says, “was to sit and watch the next category 5 hurricane blow through.”

HURRICANE DESTRUCTION AND ITS AFTERMATH

It’s a good thing nobody was at the Westerly home in late October 2012 when 15-foot waves carrying softball-sized stones and tons of sand crashed onto Misquamicut State Beach. The structure there at the time was a bedrock of family tradition, an annual summer destination for the owners and their children and grandchildren. But without insulation to even keep out cold air in winter, it was no match for flooding and gale-force winds. Caldwell describes the storm’s impact in neat and peaceful terms. “After the tidal surge, not much of the house was left,” he says. “Where the living room used to be, there was a 4-foot pile of sand.”

Commissioned to rebuild using the maximum footprint allowed by regulatory agencies, Caldwell designed a flood-resistant foundation using concrete footings and pilings reinforced with rebar and breakaway walls at ground level so the rest of the house will not be compromised by the next big storm. The whole house received airtight insulation, efficient heating and cooling systems, and a third-party-verified air quality measurement that combined to achieve a silver rating by the National Green Building Standard, which is maintained by the National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C.

Caldwell gets a lot of customer requests to add rooftop solar panels. Many times he says no because of shading impacts or suboptimal roof orientation that can limit energy production. When site conditions allow for solar, Caldwell usually brings in a subcontractor for the installation. For high-end projects with an aesthetic that requires preserving the architectural integrity of the roofline, Caldwell has his own construction crew, led by foreman Dwayne Smith, install solar shingles that integrate with traditional shingles to form a seam- less roof system. Smith went through a manufacturer’s training program to become a certified roof shingle and solar shingle installer, making Caldwell & Johnson eligible for warranty protection from the supplier and demonstrating to customers that the firm is serious about the product.

Traditional solar panels would not have been suitable for the Westerly beach home, because durability was a principal concern for the client, a retired physicist.

Traditional solar panels would not have been suitable for the Westerly beach home, because durability was a principal concern

Traditional solar panels would not have been suitable for the Westerly beach home, because durability was a principal concern.

“Durability is a key component of sustainable green building,” Caldwell explains. “Oceanfront homes in our region are exposed to some pretty harsh elements throughout the year, including high winds, ice, salt and more. Fortunately, the individual components of the integrated solar system are up to task, and the fastening system allows the entire array to be secured directly to the roof deck as an integral unit.”

Caldwell was able to easily dispel the concern by referring to the Narragansett Bay project that survived Hurricane Sandy, where his team had installed solar shingles for the first time. “That home came through the storm with no problem at all. The solar energy system turned on and hasn’t had a problem since,” he says.

If the conditions in Rhode Island don’t provide enough assurance that solar shingles can withstand the worst that Mother Nature has to offer, Caldwell can also point to an installation he’s put on his own ski house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, about 4,000 feet above sea level. “If you wanted to test this stuff, that’s getting on the outer edge of the bell curve,” he says. “I wouldn’t put traditional solar panels there. It would be too dangerous. But in pretty harsh conditions, the solar shingles work great.”

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Spray Polyurethane Foam Has Structure-strengthening and Energy-efficiency Capabilities

A high-performance building material, spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is widely used as an effective, lasting roofing solution. With positive benefits, including versatility, thermal insulation, resistance to inclement weather cycling and storms, strengthening of the building envelope, long life span and durability, spray foam has enjoyed increased use among builders and roofing contractors alike.

A roof’s primary purpose is to protect the structure underneath it. As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator. The lightweight material is ideal as a roofing solution when:

 As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator.

As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator.

  • the roof substrate has many penetrations.
  • the roof deck is an unusual shape or configuration.
  • the roof is being applied to a structure located in a severe-weather environment.
  • a lightweight option is needed.
  • a slope application is preferred to provide extra drainage capabilities.
  • keeping the existing roof cover is desired.

STRENGTH AND DURABILITY

SPF is considered a highly durable building material. The physical properties of the foam change little with time, accounting for a life span up to 30 years with regular care and maintenance. SPF roofing systems also strengthen the roof in multiple ways. Roofing spray foams possess a compressive strength of 40 to more than 60 pounds per inch. Spray foam’s adhesion strengthening capabilities are key, especially in locations where severe weather cycling, storms, wind, hail and other conditions are prevalent and commonly cause structure damage. Coastal and hurricane-prone regions are prime examples.

When applied to the interior side of a roof, closed-cell SPF can increase a building’s resistance to wind uplift during severe storms. When SPF is applied to built-up roofing and metal substrates, it increases resistance to wind uplift even further. A study conducted by the University of Florida, Gainesville, in 2007 found that applying closed-cell spray foam under a roof deck provides up to three times the resistance to wind uplift for wood roof sheathing panels when compared to a conventionally fastened roof.

Spray foam is a good solution for unusual configurations and areas with many penetrations.

Spray foam is a good solution for unusual configurations and areas with many penetrations.

Spray foam also is resistant to progressive peeling failure. Caused by wind, peeling happens at the roof’s edges when wind pulls flashings and copings away from their installed positions. Peeling looks like a tin can after it has been cut around the perimeter. When this happens, a chain reaction may occur and lead to catastrophic building failure. After the roof membrane, panels or tiles pull away, the board-stock insulation is exposed, often with less resistance to the lateral and uplift wind forces. Then the sheathing below and the substructure are subject to movement and wind or water damage, potentially leaving the entire building interior underneath open and vulnerable. SPF roofing is continuous, so it provides a water-resistant layer that is well adhered to the substrate.

When the Gaithersburg, Md.-based National Institute of Standards and Technology examined roofs following Hurricane Katrina, it found buildings with spray-foam roofs performed rather well without blow-off of the SPF or damage to flashings. The 2006 “Performance of Physical Structures in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita: A Reconnaissance Report” found that only one of the examined SPF roofs incurred notable damage, and that damage was confined to only 1 percent of the total roof system. The report concluded spray foam kept the roofs intact, prevented moisture from entering the buildings, and protected the structures from hail and debris.

Hurricane Katrina played a significant role in one of the largest reroofing projects ever on one of the largest metal-framed domed structures in the world: the Superdome in New Orleans. Katrina destroyed the dome’s second roof; the structure’s original roof was constructed with polyisocyanurate foam covered with a fluid-applied elastomeric coating but was replaced in 1989 with a single-ply EPDM roofing system. After the damages suffered during Katrina, the EPDM roof system was replaced with a spray foam roof system.

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