Advancing Commercial Property Protection
By Debra Ballen & Chuck Miccolis
This month, we are showcasing the (B)usiness in IBHS—our work in advancing commercial property protection. We focus on commercial property protection not only because many of our members operate in this space, but also because the commercial policyholders they insure are the economic backbone of their communities. Resilient communities depend not only on strong homes where people can live but also on employers who prepare for the physical and operational disruptions severe weather can bring.
Perhaps uniquely at IBHS, our commercial property protection program brings together research, loss control guidance, group, and individual member company training, and our FORTIFIED Commercial™ standard, which is improving commercial construction in coastal states and, over the years, has been used by several of our members to construct the buildings where their own employees provide property protection to policyholders. All of the elements of our “commercial storyline” are woven together through Pathways to Preventing Avoidable Loss: https://ibhs.org/commercial-value/.
This anniversary series highlights some of our personal memories of the Research Center, and so we would like to share a few relating to commercial property protection:
- Our first full-scale commercial test in 2012 compared two full-scale commercial strip mall-type masonry structures—one built using “common” practice construction methods and the second using “stronger” requirements. The specimens were fitted out to resemble pizza joints (although we used the term “Italian trattoria” in our promotional material). The “common” building dramatically crumbled after a flashing failure compromised the roof system. The “stronger building” has been reused countless times. Even now, when we walk into the Research Center, we can see a relic of the “stronger” specimen and remember the drama of the 2012 test and what it would be like to lose a local pizza joint built to “common” standards.
- Some of the important commercial testing we’ve done, such as wind speed validation, is not visually compelling. But those specimens can take on a new life. The specimen that we used for standing seam metal roof testing was repurposed as a storage facility on campus. We’ve brought loss control trainees inside the building to discuss commercial roof construction, and at our February 2020 Commercial Disaster Dynamics Academy, we took members onto the roof to discuss installation and maintenance. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the actual experience of bringing members inside and atop that repurposed specimen reminds us of how enduring our research really is.
- We tested several commercial photovoltaic (PV) solar panel arrays in order to measure lift and movement at speeds at and below their design wind speeds. Just prior to a planned media event, we were threatened with an injunction by one of the manufacturers who did not want the results of its performance made public. We made the difficult decision to go forward with the test but cancel all external participation and distribution. After a week of tense legal wrangling, no one was surprised when this company’s system failed pretty spectacularly, with pieces of the racking system strewn all over the outlet area behind the Test Chamber. And, we added “legal risk” to the perils we think about at the Research Center.
We’ve also had countless opportunities to bring our members “inside the risk” at the Research Center through loss control training, the Disaster Dynamics Academy program, and events for policyholders and the commercial building trades. Although much of this training is now going “virtual,” we are looking forward to welcoming members back post-pandemic.
General Counsel & Chief Risk Officer
Managing Director of Commercial Lines