Anyone who’s ever come home from vacation to find a home partly destroyed by a leaking roof, broken water line, or backed-up sewage knows the horror of drywall replacement, rotted rug ejections, mold tests, and other reconstruction measures that force life as we know it to a halt.
The difficulties are even larger when a commercial or government workplace is struck by disaster. Employees usually vacate the premises or wait for help. Little gets done.
But imagine a building resilient enough to allow people to continue their daily tasks even while an emergency is in progress. The self-reliant building might have its own small electrical generating system to maintain lights and computers during a power outage, employ mobile communications, maintain compartmentalized clusters of rooms to prevent water damage in one sector from
affecting others, shatterproof windows to minimize hazards from imploding glass, and sufficient electronics to quickly pinpoint a trouble spot.
For obvious reasons, increased building resilience in the face of hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, or cyberattacks has been a major national security focus over the past decade.
Such resilient buildings not only would be less susceptible to damage and work interruption but could become community gathering places in times of general crisis, according to a recently published Sandia paper, “Resilience certification for commercial buildings: a study of stakeholder perspectives,” published in Environment Systems and Decisions on March 13, 2013.
But it won’t be easy to secure voluntary adoption by industry and construction companies if the wrong justifications are presented, says lead author Barbara Jennings (6924).
Expecting industry to act, for example, merely because “it’s the right thing to do” came out lowest (3 votes) in a questionnaire presented to 15 industry representatives.
The highest number of respondents were motivated by business reasons. These included increased revenue (10 votes), better competitive edge (9), and quicker, cheaper recoveries (9) from more efficiently handling a disruption. The upper middle ground was held by “decreased insurance premiums” (8) and “tax incentives” (7), while the lower middle ground included more problematic benefits: “Increased chance of receiving financing or lower finance rates” and “ability to charge higher lease rates due to increased attractiveness of the building to tenants” (both 5).
While the respondents were generally favorable to the resilience concept, they found it daunting to plow through the government forms and language necessary to apply for sizable tax credits to offset the increased building costs.
The paper proposes five concepts to make the concept of resilient buildings real to the construction, design, insurance, and building owner communities.
Most imaginatively, the authors (who include Eric Vugrin and Deborah Belasich, both 6921) suggest that program sponsors collect stories and images that demonstrate resilience during alarming times and use these as proxy incidents to motivate others who had not experienced disasters themselves.
They also suggest government-based incentives, public-private partnerships, training and education programs, and simple, clear explanations of the federal governments’ multiple programs “to minimize confusion by describing the different role each plays.”