Updated NIBS Study Proves Mitigation Is a Sound Investment

Table 1. Benefit-cost ratio by hazard and mitigation measure. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

More than a decade ago, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a nonprofit mandated by Congress to improve building process and facility performance, issued a landmark report which changed the conversation about the value of resilience. The 2005 report, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves, was authored by NIBS’ Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC), which promotes collaboration to achieve resilience objectives among a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Working from data provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the report found that every $1 of natural hazard mitigation funded by the FEMA between 1993 and 2003 saved the American people an average of $4 in future losses. That one to four ratio of investment to returns was widely quoted at the time that the report was published, and has been cited repeatedly during the past decade as interest in resilience grown. This report was among the first to demonstrate that investment in mitigation could deliver significant returns.

During the intervening years, as the frequency and severity of natural disasters has intensified, MMC leadership recognized the need to update and expand the 2005 study. Philip Schneider, AIA, Director of the MMC, explains that the “disaster landscape” has changed since 2005, necessitating a new report. “Our hazard maps, particularly, for earthquake and wind, have had several updates based on more research and better data. Our codes and standards are much improved for creating disaster resistance than they were over ten years ago. Our exposure to disasters, especially, building in disaster-prone areas, has increased substantially. We also have better methods for determining vulnerability to disasters than we had then, and more sophisticated economic analysis tools.’’ In fact, as part of the changed “disaster landscape” that Schneider references, 2017 set unwelcome records related to climate and weather events. According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in early January, the U.S. experienced 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events, matching 2011 for the record number of billion-dollar disasters for an entire calendar year. Together, these events cost the country more than $300 billion dollars, a new annual record for the United States. While this data was released after the publication of the MMC report, it underscores the urgent need to lessen the financial impact of these increasingly frequent disasters.

Figure 1. Total costs and benefits of 23 years of federal mitigation grants. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

After a year-long effort, the MMC released its updated report in January of this year. Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report examined two specific mitigation strategies and found that mitigation is of even greater value now than it was when the first report was released. First, based on updated data on the impact of FEMA grants, the report stated that society now saves $6 for every $1 spent on mitigation. Looking at a second mitigation strategy, the report found a corresponding “benefit-cost” ratio of four to one for spending that exceeded select provisions of the 2015 International Code Council building codes. In summarizing its findings for both strategies, the MMC stated that, “Mitigation represents a sound financial investment.” (For the purposes of this study mitigation and resilience have similar meanings. Schneider says, “For both terms there is no one universal definition; they both are broadly defined with considerable overlap. However, resilience tends to be more community-based, taking into account a wider range of infrastructure, economic, environmental and social issues. Mitigation tends to be more building centric, but still can pertain to a subset or even the same set of wider range issues.”)

The report points out that while mitigation strategies deliver financial rewards, they would also provide other significant benefits. Implementing the two sets of mitigation strategies detailed in the report “would prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in the long term.” Additionally, the report projects that designing new buildings to exceed the model ICC building codes would help fuel economic growth, “resulting in 87,000 new, long-term jobs, and an approximate 1 percent increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.”

Natural Disasters

The report specifically looked at four potentially cataclysmic natural forces: hurricane winds, earthquakes, riverine floods and hurricane surges. Then they looked at five stakeholder groups that would bear the costs and enjoy the benefits of mitigation for the four natural hazards under consideration. These stakeholder groups are:

  1. Developers: corporations that invest in and build new buildings, and usually sell those buildings once they are completed, owning them only for months or a few years
  2. Title holders: people or corporations who own existing buildings, generally buying them from developers or prior owners
  3. Lenders: people or corporations that lend a title holder the money to buy a building
  4. Tenants: people or corporations who occupy the building, whether they own it or not
  5. Community: people, corporations, local government, emergency service providers, and everyone else associated with the building or who does business with the tenant

Figure 2. Total costs and benefits of new design to exceed 2015 I-Code requirements. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The study reports that when the cost each group bears to mitigate a loss is subtracted from the positive benefits it enjoys, the “net benefit” is positive in each category. In other words, the value of investing in mitigation is spread broadly across the construction business and the people it serves.

The authors of the report are careful to point out that the cited benefit-cost ratios, or BCRs, are generated from two very specific mitigation strategies: those used by FEMA, and those incorporating designs that exceed provisions of ICC codes. Noting that the results from the 2005 study represented only a single, very narrow set of strategies but were incorrectly used to justify “all types of mitigation strategies,” the authors of the study specifically say that they did not provide an aggregate number in the updated study, but elected to provide BCRs for the two strategies individually. Moving forward, providing an aggregate number is definitely one of their goals: “Once the project team has identified BCRs for a sufficient number of mitigation strategies, it will provide an aggregated number representing the overall benefit of mitigation.” To help achieve that goal, multiple studies are being conducted by the MCC to examine the value of many kinds of natural hazard mitigation at the national level, and more studies are being planned, pending the acquisition of funding.

Focusing on the Roof

What do the results of this study mean for those who focus on the integrity of a roofing system to help create a resilient structure? Schneider underscores the importance of a resilient roof as a component of an overall mitigation strategy. “If the roofing system is compromised in either a windstorm or wildfire, the building or home is subject to total loss.” He also observes that achieving resilience, either in an entire community or in an individual structure, will be a combined effort. “Resilience will be best implemented when states and communities develop and effect resilience plans. Communities, particularly, need to address zoning. Codes and standards organizations need to constantly be updating their documents to address resilience, and architects, engineers, developers and contractors should be building to resilience standards. Manufacturers have their part in providing more resilient products and systems.”

The NIBS report is being praised as an important tool to help in decision-making about investment in resilience, and influential stakeholders are supporting its approach. Executive Director Paul Kovacs of the Toronto-based Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction says, “Findings of the 2005 report, that resilience offers a societal payback of $4 for every $1 invested in mitigation, made an extremely important contribution to the argument that building resilience towards natural hazards is not costly in the mid- to long-term and, in fact, offers a solid Return on Investment. The 4:1 ratio became the most commonly cited metric to show that resilience works, that such things as building codes work. The updated study released yesterday puts a finer point on the metrics and continues to offer overwhelming evidence that building resilience is key to avoiding death, injuries, property damage and disruption.”

Mike DuCharme, Chairman of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), adds support from the manufacturers’ point of view. “We know that our EPDM products can play an essential role in helping to create more resilient roofing systems. With this new report showing the economic advantages of resilience, we can provide the construction industry with materials that can not only enhance the performance of a resilient roofing system, but also provide financial advantages as well.”

The NIBS report concludes by pointing out that, “Not everyone is willing or able to bear the up-front construction costs for more resilient buildings, even if the long-term benefits exceed the up-front costs,” and suggests that some creative incentives might be needed “to align competing interests of different groups.”

FEMA, the source of the statistics for the NIBS report, is addressing this very issue and has just released its Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy at the request of the Department of Homeland Security. This strategy is meant to address the lack of coordination in mitigation investment and is organized to achieve these six outcomes:

  1. Coordination of risk mitigation and management improves between and among public, private, and non-profit sector entities.
  2. The private and nonprofit sectors increase their investments in and innovations related to mitigation.
  3. State, local, tribal and territorial governments are increasingly empowered to lead risk reduction activities and share responsibility and accountability with the federal government.
  4. Public, private, and nonprofit sector entities develop and share more of the data and tools needed to make risk-informed mitigation investments.
  5. Public, private, and nonprofit sector entities improve risk communication, leading to more risk-informed mitigation investments by individuals and communities.
  6. The built environment — whether grey or nature-based infrastructure, and including lifeline infrastructure, buildings, and homes — becomes more resilient

This Draft report is now available for comment and FEMA will continue to research the issue before releasing its final recommendations.

This increasing focus on the issue of resilience has moved the debate forward, beyond where it was just a year ago at this time. The question is no longer whether resilience is needed; the daunting statistics of 2017 confirm that cataclysmic weather events are on the increase and can cause staggering damage to the built environment. The NIBS report provides hard evidence that resilience is an investment in the future that will pay dividends for years to come. The debate now moves forward to the best ways to finance these mitigation efforts, so that those future dividends can be realized.

AIA Committee on the Environment Studies Award-winning Sustainable Design Projects

In order to examine how the architectural community is evolving in regards to sustainable design practices, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) undertook an in-depth study of nearly 200 COTE Top Ten Award winning projects encompassing almost 20 years.

The findings have been compiled in a report, Lessons from the Leading Edge, that reviewed a variety of performance measures, including energy efficiency, water conservation and indoor environmental quality to evaluate how these exemplary projects demonstrate COTE’s mission to “enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment.” The research represents the most comprehensive study of the COTE Top Ten program to date.

“Top Ten winners are an extraordinary group of case studies from the leading edge of sustainable design over the past two decades,” says Lance Hosey, FAIA, lead author of the report and a member of the COTE Advisory Group. “The projects have been studied and published widely as individual projects, but never as a group—until now. What we found is that Top Ten winners are outpacing the industry by virtually every standard of performance, but they also exemplify the integration of design excellence and sustainable performance.”

Key takeaways from report:

  • Many project examples show extraordinary performance at very low or average costs, dispelling the misperception that higher building performance requires higher costs.
  • Projects range in size from small houses under 1,000 square feet to community master plans at millions of square feet.
  • The average energy savings for these projects is 54 percent better than industry standards. In the past five years, the average energy savings has improved to 65 percent, exceeding AIA 2030 Commitment targets.
  • The average water reduction is 52 percent better than industry standards.

The majority of projects are in urban locations, while less than one fifth are found in rural areas. One third of all Top Ten winners are located on the West Coast of North America.
COTE founding chairman, Bob Berkebile, FAIA, adds: “We have seen a significant transformation in how these project examples have evolved and advanced. Initially, the design teams were acutely focused on efficiencies within an individual building and in recent years they are also looking at more horizontal and far-reaching economic, ecological, social equity, public health and resilient outcomes.”

Recommendations for architecture and design industry:

  • Embrace design before technology to improve performance and quality.
  • Study best practices for higher performance at lower costs.
  • Pursue post-occupancy evaluations as standard practice to understand better how actual performance aligns with design intent.
  • Promote more ambitious adaptive reuse projects to preserve existing building stock and conserve resources more extensively.
  • Drive greater awareness of the health impact of building materials and need for better indoor air quality.

Owens Corning Releases Ninth Annual Sustainability Report

Owens Corning announced strong progress in reducing its environmental footprint and improving the environmental impact and transparency of its products. The company released these results in its ninth annual sustainability report.

“We are proud of what we accomplished this past year, further reducing our environmental footprint and expanding our positive handprint by introducing new solutions to the challenges of climate change, energy consumption and infrastructure development,” says vice president and chief sustainability officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini. “Today, our global enterprise operates with 46 percent less absolute greenhouse gas emissions than our peak in 2007, and we are developing ways to make additional reductions. We are committed to expanding our impact through sustainability and collaborating with others to further our progress.”

The report also highlights the company’s global philanthropic work, joint efforts with customers and suppliers to improve sustainability, and analytics on its handprint. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company.

“We’ve begun to explore handprint opportunities along the social dimensions of human health and employee well-being,” O’Brien-Bernini says. “Continued safety progress and advances in health and wellness help our employees and their families live to the fullest each day.”

Building on the successes of its first 10-year sustainability goals, this is the fourth year Owens Corning has reported against its 2020 goals.

Other highlights of 2014 progress include:

  • Industry-leading track record of safety performance, which earned Owens Corning the 2014 Green Cross for Safety medal from the National Safety Council.
  • Sustained environmental footprint progress, including intensity reductions of 34 percent in greenhouse gas and 65 percent in toxic air emissions from its 2010 baseline.
  • Facilitated 2.4 billion pounds of end-of-life recycled shingles and consumed 1.3 billion pounds of recycled glass, year-over-year increases of 33 percent and 15 percent respectively.
  • Launch of the WindStrand high-performance glass fiber roving and Ultrablade fiberglass reinforcement fabric products, which enable longer and lighter wind blades. This advancement supports the continued growth of economical wind energy for low-wind sites.
  • Participation in community programs at more than half of our worldwide facilities. This included increasing access to basic health and educational needs for more than 19,000 children in India, China and Mexico.
  • Collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health to strengthen its wellness programs.
  • Placement in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the fifth consecutive year and named Industry Leader in Sustainability for the second consecutive year.
  • Perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the 11th consecutive year.

Owens Corning’s 2014 Sustainability Report is consistent with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines known as GRI-G3.1. GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines set a globally applicable framework for reporting the economic, environmental and social dimensions of an organization’s activities, products and services.

NRCA Releases Market Survey on Sales Volume Trends

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has released its 2014-15 market survey providing information about overall sales volume trends in the roofing industry, roofing experiences, material usage and regional breakdowns. It is an important tool to measure the scope of the U.S. roofing industry, and the data provides a glimpse into which roof systems are trending in the low- and steep-slope roofing markets.

This year’s survey reports sales volumes for 2014 and 2015 projections averaged between $7 million and just more than $8 million, respectively, and revealed a near-steady ratio of low- to steep-slope sales of 72 percent to 28 percent.

For low-slope roofs, TPO remains the market leader with a 31 percent share of the new construction market and 26 percent of the reroofing market for 2014. Asphalt shingles continue to dominate the steep-slope roofing market with a 44 percent market share for new construction and a 58 percent share for reroofing.

Polyisocyanurate insulation continues to lead its sector of the market with 75 percent of new construction and 70 percent of reroofing work.

In addition, roof cover board installation for 2014 was reported as 24 percent in new construction, 46 percent in reroofing tear-offs and 30 percent in re-cover projects.

NRCA’s market survey enables roofing contractors to compare their material usage with contractors in other regions, and provides manufacturers and distributors with data to analyze, which can affect future business decisions.

Research Helps Industry Organizations Conclude Ballasted Roofs Provide Energy Savings

During the last decade, the roofing industry has been increasingly impacted by two strong forces: first, rising energy prices with no real end in sight, and, second, increasingly stringent building codes and regulations, designed to limit emissions, reduce energy use and mitigate the impact of urban heat islands.

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007.

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007. PHOTO: EPDM Roofing Association

The industry response has also been two-fold: In some instances, new products have been created, such as lower VOC adhesives, primers and sealants, self-adhering membranes and a wider variety of reflective membranes. At the same time, roofing professionals have taken a close look at some of the products that have been in use for a generation. Using rigorous science, they have tested these tried-and-true products to see how they measure up against the new standards. And in many cases, they’ve found that products that have been in use for decades are delivering great results in this new, energy-sensitive environment. Case in point: ballasted roofing, which has been available since the early 1970s, is turning out to be a great choice to meet 21st century needs.

2007 Study

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007. Andre Desjarlais, ORNL’s group leader of Building Envelope Research, and his colleagues had just completed work in which “we had done a fairly substantial comparison of different cool roof technologies, both membrane types, as well as coatings,” Desjarlais says. At the request of EPDM manufacturers, working together at the newly founded EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), Bethesda, Md., as well as manufacturers within Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI, Desjarlais designed and implemented a second study to assess the performance of ballasted roofing. “We undertook a study to effectively expand what we had done earlier on coatings and membranes,” he says.

Other factors also encouraged ORNL to generate data about ballasted roofing. The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings. Desjarlais believed this definition of a “cool roof” might be inaccurately limiting roofing choice by excluding other roofing materials, such as ballasted roofs, that would deliver comparable savings.

The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings.

The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings. PHOTO: EPDM Roofing Association

In addition, in Chicago, a new Chicago Energy Code was adopted as early as 2001 “with high reflectivity and emissivity requirements that limited severely building owners’ and managers’ roof system choices”, according to a paper presented in 2011 by Bill McHugh of the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. At the roofing industry’s request, a reprieve was granted, giving the industry until 2009 to come up with products with a reflectivity of 0.25.

Faced with that 2009 deadline, the Chicagoland Roofing Council, Chicago Roofing Contractors Association and Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association began in 2001 to conduct research on products that would help to meet the city’s goal of creating a workable Urban Heat Island Effect Ordinance while giving building owners a wider choice of roofing products. As part of their effort, the industry coalition turned its attention to the energy-saving qualities of ballasted roofing and coordinated its work with the research at ORNL.

Desjarlais points out the concept of thermal mass having energy benefits has been accepted for years and has been a part of the early version of ASHRAE 90.1. “Thermally massive walls have a lower insulation requirement, so there was industry acceptance of the fact that using mass is a way of saving energy,” he says. “But we had a hard time translating that understanding from a wall to a roof. Whether you do that with a concrete block or a bunch of rocks doesn’t really matter. The metric is no different. Roofs or walls.”

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MCA Study: Metal Roofing Market Sees Continued Growth

The market for metal products in the U.S. grew 4 percent annually during the past five years, according to an industry study released by the Metal Construction Association (MCA). This growth is significant because it occurred from 2009 through 2014, during the economic downturn when construction volumes declined and building owners and specifiers were particularly cost conscious.

The metal roofing market has seen even greater growth in both the residential and commercial sectors. In the residential market, use of metal roofing grew 7.1 percent in new construction and 4.1 percent in replacement roofing. In the commercial sector, metal roofing grew 9.7 percent in the five-year period. The industry also saw an 8.7 percent growth in metal wall panels in commercial building during this same time period.

“We are encouraged by this data because as the economy continues to improve and construction volumes further recover, we see even greater opportunities for growth in metal building materials,” says John Ryan, MCA’s director of marketing. “Metal meets the requirements of today’s builders from environmental responsibility to ease of construction to durability.”

MCA credits much of this growth to the metal industry’s efforts to educate the design community about the long-term value of metal roof and wall products. Key benefits of metal products over competitive materials include: energy efficiency and performance, LEED certification/green building, aesthetic appeal, life-cycle cost, durability, and speed of construction.

MCA joined together with five partner associations beginning in 2009 to compile the data for this industry study. The purpose was to create a custom market model using standard measures in order to track industry growth over time. Study participants included data from the key associations: The American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI), the Aluminum Association (AA), Metal Roofing Alliance, National Frame Building Association (NFBA) and the National Coil Coaters Association (NCCA).

WalletHub Small Business Study: Best and Worst Cities to Work

The personal finance social network WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015’s Best & Worst Cities to Work for a Small Business.

In order to help job seekers consider small businesses as attractive employment prospects, WalletHub examined the small business environment within 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas across 11 key metrics. Our data set includes such metrics as net small business job growth, industry variety and earnings for small business employees.


    Best Metro Areas to Work for a Small Business      Worst Metro Areas to Work for a Small Business 
 
1
 
 
Charlotte, N.C.
 
 
91
 
 
Springfield, Mass.
 
 
2
 
 
Raleigh, N.C.
 
 
92
 
 
Tucson, Ariz.
 
 
3
 
 
Oklahoma City, Okla.
 
 
93
 
 
Augusta, Ga.
 
 
4
 
 
Austin, Texas
 
 
94
 
 
New Haven, Conn.
 
 
5
 
 
Omaha, Neb.
 
 
95
 
 
Bakersfield, Calif.
 
 
6
 
 
Nashville, Tenn.
 
 
96
 
 
Fresno, Calif.
 
 
7
 
 
Salt Lake City
 
 
97
 
 
Scranton, Penn.
 
 
8
 
 
Dallas
 
 
98
 
 
Toledo, Ohio
 
 
9
 
 
Houston
 
 
99
 
 
Stockton, Calif.
 
 
10
 
 
Boston
 
 
100
 
 
Youngstown, Ohio
 


Key stats:

  • The number of small businesses per 1,000 inhabitants is two times higher in the Miami metro area than in the Bakersfield, Calif., metro area.
  • The earnings for small business employees adjusted for cost of living are three times higher in the Houston metro area than in the Honolulu metro area.
  • The median annual income adjusted for cost of living is two times higher in the Ogden, Utah, metro area than in the McAllen, Texas, metro area.
  • The unemployment rate is four times higher in the Fresno, Calif., metro area than in the Provo, Utah, metro area.

By 2042, the Cape Coral, Fla., metro area is projected to experience the highest population increase, at 103.4 percent, and the Youngstown metro area the highest population decrease, at 11.1 percent.