Pathway to Resilience:
IBHS Members strongly support the role of IBHS as a Resiliency Shaper. This is the critical step to translate the learning from IBHS research into action that results in stronger homes and businesses. This Disaster Safety Strategy builds on our previous efforts to have a stronger voice and more strategic role in strengthening codes and standards, expanding the scope of FORTIFIED, strengthening external partnerships, and engaging in the most critical public policy dialogues.
IBHS strongly supports strong building code adoption and enforcement. The science from IBHS research and our FORTIFIED experience has its fullest effect when incorporated into building codes and standards. During 2019-2020, we achieved an important milestone with the inclusion of sealed roof deck requirements in the model International Residential Code, and the Florida Building Code. We also played a lead role in shaping revisions to the ICC 600 provisions for high-wind areas, a standard promulgated by the International Code Council. In 2021-2023, this work will continue, focusing specifically on wildfire codes in California, and on opportunities to improve commercial codes and standards as they relate to wind, water intrusion, and wildfire. Following on the success of IBHS’s Rating the States and region-specific building code analyses, we will find other opportunities to shine a research light on code performance and improvement, particularly in inland areas.
- Drive IBHS science into wildfire code proposals for the I-Codes (WUI, Residential and Commercial Building) and the California Building Code.
- Continue to advance building codes and test standards proposals that place IBHS research into the core standards for new construction–both commercial and residential. Assess the performance of states on the incorporation of these codes.
As important as building codes are in protecting people, voluntary efforts that go beyond consensus-based model codes help provide home and business owners with added property protection. This was the genesis of the IBHS FORTIFIED program, and over time, the superior performance of FORTIFIED construction has been demonstrated in the lab and proven in the field. The most significant test of FORTIFIED came from Hurricane Sally, which made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores, Alabama, in 2020—close to the heartland of FORTIFIED Home™ and FORTIFIED Commercial™ construction. On-the-ground observations and aerial imagery show that the vast majority of designated homes and businesses performed at or above our expectations, in contrast with notable damage to neighboring buildings. In particular, FORTIFIED roofs served (as intended) as the first line of defense by ensuring that minor shingle loss did not allow water to pour between the seams in the roof deck and cause extensive damage to building interiors and contents.
Over the past two years, IBHS has ramped up efforts to scale the FORTIFIED program by growing the number of designations in hurricane-prone regions by 30%-50% per year; pushing a new FORTIFIED High Wind & Hail designation in inland areas; and introducing new technologies and processes to make the designation process more efficient and cost-effective. In addition to the progress made within the FORTIFIED program itself, IBHS’s success in adding sealed roof deck requirements to the International Residential Code and Florida Building Code validates how proven FORTIFIED standards can be the jumping off point for improving building codes by reaching a new consensus on resilience.
Building on the progress of FORTIFIED Home and FORTIFIED Commercial to protect the structures where people live and work, in the future, FORTIFIED can also create new pathways to resilience for vulnerable and underserved communities. Two areas of focus going forward will be factory-built homes and multi-family housing. FORTIFIED Commercial already provides technical standards for multi-family housing, but proactive strategies can increase its reach. Preventing avoidable damage to manufactured homes presents a unique set of engineering challenges that extend beyond the roof; enhancements to FORTIFIED may be the most effective way to address these issues in an affordable and scalable way. IBHS will work with Member companies and external partners to tap their technical expertise and community relationships to expand FORTIFIED along both of these dimensions.
- Expand the reach of FORTIFIED into inland areas while continuing to grow the footprint in hurricane-prone target markets.
- Take the science behind FORTIFIED to factory-built homes to mitigate key vulnerabilities while keeping a keen eye on affordability.
- Use existing IBHS science and standards to launch FORTIFIED Multi-family.
IBHS is at its best when our knowledge is carried forward by the people who bring products and buildings to market, and is valued by the people who live and work in homes and businesses at every price and age point. The product development orientation that emerged from our first Disaster Safety Strategy was an important step in this educational process by making our research observations easy to access and understand through a wide range of communications channels. This will continue as we seek creative new ways (including virtual reality) to connect with people to help them understand and reduce risk.
IBHS must leverage our research and guidance in external communications that focus public awareness on the importance of stronger building, maintenance, and storm and wildfire readiness. We can make guidance urgent and actionable by bringing more people inside the perils, demonstrating the risks, showing the consequences of inaction, and offering science-backed solutions. It is critical to work with partners who can amplify our message. Additionally, we will find new opportunities to collaborate with other stakeholders so that they understand how IBHS science can help them serve their customers and constituents. In the residential space, examples include the National Association of Home Builders and Home Innovation Research Labs; Lowe’s and The Home Depot; and realtors. Commercial partners include the Small Business Administration, American Institute of Architects, and U.S. Green Building Council. In some instances, existing partnerships can be strengthened by carefully cultivating a “win-win” orientation. There are other situations where we need to invest in a process that builds trust and recognizes mutual benefit. As in the past, Wind Pools are an important ally especially with respect to policyholders who are living in more vulnerable homes.
- Advance residential and commercial building resiliency by influencing builders, building owners, suppliers, and manufacturers.
- Bring more people inside the perils of wind, wind-driven rain, hail, and wildfire through partners who can amplify our message.
- Design resiliency paths that are available to underserved communities in multi-family, legacy, and manufactured homes, including through Wind Pools and Fair Plans.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, IBHS has strict limitations on lobbying activity, yet our technical expertise can be pivotal for shaping resiliency legislation and its implementation by federal and state agencies. This complements the strengths and capabilities of IBHS Members and other partners who have a day-to-day political role in Washington and the state capitols. In any year, there is a myriad of proactive and defensive bills (e.g., building codes, community resilience standards, grant programs) where we work in coalitions to support our shared objectives—we expect this to continue as we move forward.
Additionally, the Disaster Safety Strategy names two public policy areas where IBHS will occupy a sustained presence in 2021-2023—climate adaptation and California wildfire. On the climate issue, our role focuses on the ways that thought leaders and public policymakers need to make homes and businesses safer even as climate change results in more severe weather. In the wildfire space, the importance and complexity of the California legislative/regulatory environment warrants a specific commitment by IBHS to support industry efforts to advance wildfire mitigation while avoiding political backlash.
- Serve as the insurance industry’s principal resource for climate adaptation, while developing partnerships and collaborations with key organizations to understand climate impacts as they relate to IBHS’s future research and product agendas.
- Serve as the insurance industry’s principal wildfire science resource to support efforts to shape California wildfire resilience as it relates to legislation, regulations, building codes, and media.