Research. It’s the engine that drives IBHS, and it’s changing outcomes for the millions of Americans who live at risk of natural disasters. IBHS continued meaningful gains in understanding how damage is caused by high winds, hail, and wildfire in 2022. And, most importantly, how to prevent that damage. This work drove change, informing and shaping resilience practices across perils through improved building codes, voluntary standards, and actionable science-based guidance.
Building on more than a decade of pioneering research, our scientists looked deeper into damage commonly seen in prior studies for more insights into typical commercial and residential roof cover losses, to better understand the impact of aging on performance, and how we can prevent devastating wildfire spread from embers.
Beyond the lab, the FORTIFIED program evolved to meet the needs of the millions of Americans who live in multifamily housing, bringing resilience to more people whether they live in rural, suburban, or urban areas. Wildfire Prepared Home, the first-ever wildfire mitigation designation, extended IBHS’s science-backed designation programs to a second peril, providing a much-needed risk reduction tool for those living in high wildfire-risk areas.
IBHS’s objective, scientific research continues to shape resilience in America influencing public and non-profit funding decisions as families rebuild, as well as through informing codes, developing voluntary designation programs, and, critically, empowering home and business owners to make choices and take actions to better prepare for the risk they face. When Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, we saw the power of those actions and the capacity of IBHS’s ongoing building science research.
“IBHS’s OBJECTIVE, SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH CONTINUES…”
PUTTING A DECADE OF RESEARCH INTO ACTION
IBHS launched Wildfire Prepared Home™, which integrates a decade of research into a system of actions single-family homeowners can take to meaningfully reduce their wildfire risk. This first-ever wildfire mitigation designation program addresses vulnerabilities in three key areas— the roof, defensible space, and specific building features like vents and exterior walls—and is comprehensively backed by stakeholders, including CAL FIRE, the Western Fire Chiefs Association, and the National Fire Protection Association. Ongoing research has demonstrated homeowners are not powerless against this peril, and IBHS’s clear approach for homeowners to reduce their risk also supports towns, non-profits, insurers, and others with a consistent risk reduction tool to assess mitigation.
A Standard Recognized and Adopted by Policymakers.
- During a time of rapid rebuilding following the 2018 Camp Fire, the Town of Paradise, California, amended its town ordinance to require all new home construction meet IBHS’s Wildfire Prepared Home standard.
- At the state level, our sustained engagement with the California Department of Insurance resulted in the Department incorporating science-backed mitigation actions aligned to Wildfire Prepared Home in its new wildfire mitigation regulations.
IBHS analysis helped make the case wildfire resilience is affordable.
A joint study with Headwaters Economics, Construction Costs for a Wildfire Resilient Home: California Edition, found vulnerable areas of a home can be mitigated for less than $3,000 during new construction. This analysis fills a gap in understanding wildfire-resistant construction costs and demonstrates the affordability of wildfire-resistant options.
LEAD WITH THE ROOF
LEAD WITH THE ROOF – NO MATTER THE PERIL
IBHS’s mantra of “lead with the roof” is core to our mission of improving roof performance—regardless of the peril—as roof damage often begins a cascade of damage that leads to building failure. The impact of aging, particularly on asphalt shingles, emerged as a factor worthy of a closer look.
Building on decades of research, IBHS zeroed in on the wind performance of asphalt shingles.
- Asphalt shingles are the most frequently used roof covering in America. Typically sold with a 30-year warranty, insurers purchase 30% of all shingles sold annually, often within just a few years of a previous installation.
- Integrating research from the test chamber, roof aging farms, university partners, and post-disaster investigations, IBHS researchers identified the critical age where asphalt shingles begin wind performance decline and when it becomes a near certainty they will be damaged in high winds.
- Although longer lifespans are implied for asphalt shingles based on industry nomenclature of 30-year and 50-year shingles, IBHS observation, analysis, and testing showed homes can be only one storm away from needing a new roof cover after just 10 years. Furthermore, analysis showed up to 90% of post-catastrophe claims include damage to the roof.
- A 25% expansion of the roof aging farm at the Research Center will enable more nuanced field observations of asphalt shingle functionality over time. The additional huts will allow for shorter sampling cycles, in parallel with longer-term studies, to improve our understanding of when shingle adhesion, not nailing pattern or physical damage, becomes a property risk.
IBHS Research is Informing Building Codes
Advancements made in codes provide another pathway for translating IBHS research into action. The gap between the FORTIFIED standard and current building codes was narrowed as the sealed roof deck was adopted into the International Building Code (IBC) and specific requirements for fascia cover installation at soffits were approved into the International Residential Code (IRC). In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are now consistent with the rest of the state in requiring sealed roof decks in High Velocity Hurricane Zones—a direct result of collaboration between IBHS, Florida’s Association of Roofing Professionals, and roof cover manufacturers
MAKING RESILIENCE AVAILABLE
FORTIFIED Multifamily™: MAKING RESILIENCE AVAILABLE FOR MORE AMERICANS
With more than 60 million Americans living in multifamily housing, our nation cannot meaningfully reduce the impact of natural disasters without building stronger multifamily communities. Early in 2022, IBHS introduced the FORTIFIED Multifamily™ standard and, in under a year, designated 24 buildings representing 313 family units. Based on the existing FORTIFIED Commercial™ technical standard, FORTIFIED Multifamily meets an economic and public policy imperative to promote resilient affordable housing and help more communities prepare for and respond to high-wind events.
FORTIFIED Multifamily is a cost-effective investment for multifamily property owners.
- An in-depth study from The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research (ACIIR) at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business measured the economic value of using the FORTIFIED standard and found the return on investment to be as high as 72%.
- IBHS research demonstrates a significant amount of storm damage can be avoided by investing in resilient construction, and the ACIIR study makes clear the financial benefit.
Resilience for all took key strides as IBHS took center stage in affordable housing funding decisions.
- The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implemented a mitigation measure in construction standards associated with Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBGDR).
- Louisiana made FORTIFIED a construction requirement for its $2.2 billion HUD funds.
- Iowa now requires funding recipients recovering from derechos build FORTIFIED.
- The Louisiana Housing Corporation announced $150 million for multifamily units to be built to the FORTIFIED Gold™ standard.
- The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas incorporated FORTIFIED into its affordable housing program, the first time a federal home loan bank implemented this type of scoring into its plan.
- FORTIFIED expanded work with nongovernmental organizations like SBP, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Habitat for Humanity, and FLASH.
FORTIFIED Home™ continued growth through volume builders, grant programs, and investments in technology.
In a year marked by supply chain disruptions that delayed construction projects and with no major prior year storms driving roof installations, FORTIFIED designation levels slowed compared to the prior year, coming in under our 2022 projections. Yet, the program still delivered the second-highest number of designations in its history.
- Key markets in Alabama and North Carolina further developed while emerging markets like Florida and Louisiana saw marked increases in the number of providers offering FORTIFIED services, which is key to future growth.
- The North Carolina Insurance Underwriters Association (NCIUA) dramatically expanded its grant program offerings from $14 million to $29 million.
- The Louisiana Fortify Homes program was established by the Legislature to provide FORTIFIED Roof grants to homeowners throughout the state.
Interest in FORTIFIED is growing inland.
Inland stakeholders, particularly in the Midwest, showed more interest in FORTIFIED while Strengthen Alabama Homes (SAH) expanded its footprint into central and north Alabama in conjunction with various nonprofit organizations serving economically vulnerable communities.
IBHS was instrumental in getting key components of the FORTIFIED standard into building codes across the country.
The gap between the FORTIFIED standard and current building codes was narrowed as the sealed roof deck was adopted into the International Building Code (IBC) and specific requirements for fascia cover installation at soffits were approved into the International Residential Code (IRC). In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are now consistent with the rest of the state in requiring sealed roof decks in High Velocity Hurricane Zones—a direct result of collaboration between IBHS, Florida’s Association of Roofing Professionals, and roof cover manufacturers.
Reducing friction for homeowners and service providers remains a key FORTIFIED objective.
Updates to custom software used to submit and process FORTIFIED evaluations makes the process more efficient, advances direct-submit capabilities, and facilitates lower- cost evaluations to support program growth.
DELIVERING TARGETED COMMERCIAL SOLUTIONS
IBHS’s Commercial Lines team implemented a multi-year strategy to deliver new content tailored to address the needs and operational intricacies of specific occupancies as they relate to natural hazards. This effort helps target our commercial guidance to improve content relevance for policyholders and Member utilization. The team also began a new innovative approach to reimagine business continuity for small to midsize commercial businesses to address a post-Covid work environment.
SETTING NEW STANDARDS
SETTING NEW STANDARDS THROUGH INNOVATIVE RESEARCH
Driving our mission, IBHS’s pioneering research goes beyond our designation programs.
As the premier expert in hail, IBHS’s field program data is used in academia and sets the standard around the world.
- Hail impact research has created a path toward better products, with manufacturers acting quickly to incorporate IBHS’s protocol into an ASTM standard.
- The high-concentration hail project uses large numbers of sub-severe impacts followed by more typical hail impacts to understand how granule loss contributes to future damage.
- Hail impact test research is now moving into siding materials.
New IBHS research provided insights that upended what we thought we knew about ballasted commercial roofs.
- For decades, scaled models in wind tunnels formed the basis of engineering judgment that wind pressure causes rocks to blow around and off ballasted roofs, exposing the membrane below.
- The unique capabilities of the IBHS test chamber allowed for full-scale testing of ballasted commercial roofs, for the first time revealing to researchers that wind pressure causes the roof membrane itself to move first, bubbling up underneath the rocks and often flinging rocks off the roof.
- Based on this research, we now understand that building code provisions have been trying to solve the wrong problem for decades.
- These key insights create the opportunity for a meaningful conversation with the roofing industry about making changes to codes and standards for this common commercial roofing system.
IBHS continued unique wildfire research with industry partners.
- Even as California homeowners began to benefit from IBHS science through the Wildfire Prepared Home program, IBHS researchers continued critical wildfire research that will shape future wildfire guidance at the parcel and community levels.
- IBHS partnered with CAL FIRE and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on research to grow the scientific understanding of how fire spreads through communities as a result of wind-driven building-to-building ember ignition.
- The Research Center test chamber was also used for collaborative research with the US Forest Service, as the only facility capable of replicating the influence of wind speed and fuel moisture on fire spread at fuel breaks.
Shaping resilience and strengthening partnerships
IBHS continued its role as a resiliency shaper, participating in forums to share the latest science and real-world solutions. These efforts help lay the foundation for a more resilient nation through greater future collaboration with others in the disaster response, recovery, and resilience spaces.
- Congress twice invited CEO Roy Wright to provide expert testimony on building resilient communities.
- IBHS expanded its Codes & Standards team in 2022, enabling more active engagement in bringing IBHS science into the codes process. While the damage from Hurricane Ian was extensive, the Florida Building Code, informed by IBHS research and mirroring the FORTIFIED standard,
stood the test.
- The International Code Council visited the Research Center to receive guidance in developing the next wildland-urban interface (WUI) building standard.
- FEMA formalized its long-standing collaboration with IBHS through a Memorandum of Understanding, strengthening post-disaster investigations and FEMA grants.
In parallel with conducting pioneering building research, our mission calls on us to translate our work into actionable guidance that drives behavior change. In 2022, IBHS reached 148.9 million Americans with research-backed guidance empowering them to reduce their risk to severe weather and wildfire. Our risk communicators bring audiences inside the perils through top-tier media relationships, social marketing, and product development.
Each year we host media and other influencers at our facility to reach broader audiences. In summer 2022, NPR’s flagship broadcast Marketplace joined us at the Research Center to take listeners behind the scenes of our multi-peril research, ultimately highlighting the role of IBHS in shaping modern building codes after Hurricane Ian. Our team also explores new platforms to expand the reach and impact of IBHS science, including launching a Disaster Discussions Podcast to engage industry influencers, weather authorities, and insurance and construction industry leaders in meaningful resilience conversations.
Responsible financial management
IBHS is committed to exceptional fiscal responsibility to make the most of Member contributions. Through keen financial management, IBHS pre-paid the bonds used to help finance the Research Center. IBHS is now free from restrictive bond covenants and can establish new bank and investment relationships intended to improve cash on hand and return on investments. In addition to making strategic investments to fund further groundbreaking research, the financial flexibility enables the recapitalization of the Research Center ensuring it remains a world-class facility.
Attracting top-tier talent
The quality and increasing quantity of top-tier IBHS research directly reflect our focus on recruiting and growing talented individuals who make up innovative, high-performing teams. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has helped us advance our efforts to hire world-class talent in the areas of research, enterprise operations, construction, and communications who are deeply committed to advancing the Institute’s work to break the cycle of loss. Over the past year, we’ve made progress in creating an environment where ideas are nurtured, products are developed, and new strides are made that help make resilience for all possible.
Leading the way forward
In the second year of the 2021-2023 Disaster Safety Strategy, IBHS’s groundbreaking hail, high wind, and wildfire research continue in parallel with designation programs, communications and public policy outreach, helping reduce the impact of severe weather and wildfire. IBHS research is at the heart of shaping resilient communities across the country as we continue to bend down the risk curve and lead the way forward to break the cycle of destruction. Your investment in IBHS is changing how we build and prepare for natural disasters. Research is the engine driving us forward. Real-world performance has proved its value, and that is changing real-world outcomes.