Pathway to Resilience:
IBHS’s best-in-class research serves as the starting point for understanding how changes in the built environment can improve property protection. The past decade supplies important examples of this end-to-end concept:
Protecting FORTIFIED homes and businesses in the direct path of Hurricane Sally—a critical ground truth that supports the pathway from IBHS research, to the development of FORTIFIED standards, to the outreach and marketing that made coastal Alabama a leader in coastal resilience. FORTIFIED also demonstrated its protective power, albeit on a smaller scale, following hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.
- Preventing water intrusion by sealing the roof deck (first incorporated into FORTIFIED Roof™ and then advanced into building codes).
- Motivating manufacturers to improve asphalt shingles through the release of our hail impact performance ratings.
- Developing suburban wildfire adaptation roadmaps that bring the best of IBHS’s wildfire science to communities that have lacked an understanding of their wildfire risk.
In each instance, IBHS engaged in a deliberative process that started by identifying real-world problems; moved into the research phase through field observations and laboratory testing; sought input from Members, collaborators, manufacturers, and trade associations; analyzed data to develop practical solutions; and leveraged our knowledge to create change.
In looking ahead, this Disaster Safety Strategy recognizes that we pursue pioneering research not in the abstract but because the new areas we seek out position us to develop effective solutions to persistent losses and emerging risks.
The iconic fan array that greets visitors to the Research Center showcases the centrality of wind to IBHS’s research program. Depending on the region of the country, damaging windstorms have different names: hurricanes, post-tropical cyclones, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, derechos, and more. Regardless of the storm type, similar things happen—as wind speeds increase, damage progresses from roof cover to wall cover, roof sheathing, roof structure, and total collapse. IBHS studies multiple modes of failure and how building systems can be made stronger through product, installation, and maintenance improvements. One example is the ways to address water intrusion that can lead to significant interior water damage through the roof, siding, windows, and doors.
With an eye toward the future, we are committed to addressing new products and technologies that enter the building marketplace, with the understanding that some will improve mitigation, while others increase the risk of loss. Our insights will be advanced into codes and standards proposals to ensure the widest deployment of IBHS research into at-risk communities. While most testing at the Research Center involves newly built structures, IBHS has built and maintains Roof Aging Farms at its South Carolina campus and locations in four other U.S. weather zones. 2019 marked the first “harvesting” of samples from these farms (on a 5-year cycle) to test how weathering/aging affects asphalt shingles’ resistance to wind, wildfire, and hail. Harvests will continue in 2021 and 2023. As important as our current protocols on natural aging are, IBHS is committed to further expanding our knowledge in this area to predict the future performance of new asphalt shingles that will be subject to weathering over time. This work is occurring through post-disaster investigations, consultations with Member company claims teams, the use of artificial intelligence, and other research methods.
- Improve the building science behind water intrusion–roof and vertical envelope–addressing installation and maintenance vulnerabilities through mitigation strategies.
- Address new technologies in the built environment (e.g., residential photovoltaic panels) and bring IBHS’s derived science into codes and standards proposals to ensure their resilient deployment in communities.
- Expand our knowledge of weathering and long-term durability of asphalt shingles, aiming to develop methods of predicting real-world wind performance of new products for inland and coastal areas.
Years of IBHS research in the Test Chamber and field have brought needed focus to the critical role embers play in the spread of wildfire; to the importance of fire-resistant building materials; and to the benefits of defensible space in mitigating (but not fully eliminating) the likelihood of wildfire loss. While most of our initial research focused on individual homes and businesses, we are expanding our research, with a new focus on suburban neighborhoods where burning structures themselves can fuel rapid spread that results in devastating loss. The IBHS Suburban Wildfire Adaptation Roadmaps, released in August 2020, are the starting point for IBHS to expand both research and public outreach necessary to bend down the risk curve and limit the catastrophic reach of wildfires into densely populated communities. Condominium communities and Homeowners’ Associations are another potential focus for these efforts. Research in this area will include structure spacing, fuel breaks, and physical barriers.
The Disaster Safety Strategy also looks to the future by imagining the expansion of IBHS’s wildfire research capabilities on the Research Center campus. The goal is two-fold: increase the amount of wildfire testing that can be scheduled in light of competing demands for Test Chamber availability; and expand the ways in which interrelated risk and protection features can be studied (both independently and as a group), while allowing more precise quantification of results.
- Establish IBHS as the definitive research group solving for wildfire mitigation aimed at suburban neighborhoods; this will allow us to amplify our voice with the goal of consumer and public policy action.
- Expand wildfire research to include the community level, not just individual structures.
- Explore the expansion of IBHS’s wildfire research capabilities on the Research Center campus, allowing more testing and more scientific quantification of the risk.
When IBHS opened the Research Center in 2010, we consciously developed a capability to research hail, which at the time was generally considered an insurance industry economic nuisance but not a subject for pioneering research. A decade later, the progress that IBHS has made in understanding hail risk and developing a test to understand shingle performance is influencing significant improvements in the asphalt shingle marketplace and highlighting the transformative power of IBHS research.
IBHS intends to build on this success by broadening the focus of our hail impact testing to include residential siding and major commercial roofing products. While steps in 2020 augmented our in-house hail production and testing capabilities, significant expansion of our work in this area will require external partnerships that allow us to scale up while assuring rigorous quality control. Exploration of these opportunities is underway and will move forward in 2021
IBHS’s Hail Study in the field was initiated in 2012 to support our laboratory needs to improve testing. Since then, IBHS has demonstrated the importance of hail field research as a means of understanding the hail hazard. IBHS has become the center of gravity, fostering collaborations and motivating new research by others. Looking ahead, IBHS will leverage existing hail field data and gather new cases to help understand hailstorm environments that are more or less prone to damaging hail events, and how hail risk varies by region of the U.S.
- Expand the capability and capacity to test the hail performance of asphalt roofing products.
- Take the hail impact research beyond asphalt shingles, broadening our focus to include residential siding and major commercial roofing products.
- Assess regional risk and hailstorm environments.