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Shining a Light on Safety

By richm@tfsystem.com on 11/6/2014

These are excerpts taken from Concrete Homes - Nov. 2014 Issue:

 

"Americans are known for their CAN-DO attitude. When faced with adversity, we rise to challenges. With growing recognition of the threats posed by severe weather, the nation is beginning to understand that we must take steps to improve the way we build"

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a program to avert both the human and financial impacts of destructive weather by changing construction for the better. The new Resilience STAR program is one component of a larger effort by the DHS to advocate for more stringent codes in order to reverse the trend toward less robust buildings. There is growing evidence to support taking on this challenge. The DHS has chosen to start with residential and in late 2013/early 2014, DHS initiated a Home Pilot Project under its new Resilience STAR program to enhance the resilience of homes. The project will allow the private sector to voluntarily identify and designate homes that are built or remodeled in ways that could employ design features proven to enhance resilience to disasters, while also being affordable. 

FEMA reports that Americans face more severe weather than citizens of any other country. National Weather Service figures indicate that in an average year, the US experiences 2,500 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and 10 hurricanes. In addition, earthquakes and wildfires may threaten a home or business with damage or destruction. Back in the 70's a gradual weakening of code requirements meant that new construction lost some robustness. Non-combustible materials like concrete and masonry were gradually replaced with lighter frame construction made with wood or steel. Over time, these buildings did not respond the same way to high winds, fires and storm surges, causing greater damage and higher dollar losses. After just one event, communities can be disrupted for years and some may never return to their former vibrancy. 

JOPLIN, MO - 2011: an EF5 multiple vortex tornado hit several neighborhoods, leaving over $ 2.8 billion in property damage, injuring 1,150 people and killing 158 in its destructive path.

It's been reported that for every $1 spent on disaster mitigations, up to $4 can be saved by preventing damage that would otherwise occur. From a financial perspective, prevention (spending money up front) can be seen as an investment because it's often cheaper than repairs. CONCRETE HOMES WOULD BE ONE WAY TO ACHIEVE ROBUSTNESS.

Any building system can be strengthened to perform better. For some building systems, increased performance comes with a price tag for the upgrade. For concrete systems, modifications to improve the homes' resilience are often minimal, making concrete construction more cost competitive when compared to wood-framed systems that have been upgraded to disaster resilience.

 


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