Why the Roof?
When you think about a home, “having a roof over your head” is the most basic level of need. Yet this protection can be threatened by severe weather. When roofs fail, they can kick-start a cascade of failures such as water infiltration, projectile damage, and destruction of rooftop equipment. IBHS’s highest priority is to understand what makes roof systems vulnerable and how roofing materials, their supply chain, and installation methods can be improved to reduce roof-related damage. Our goal is not just to “have a roof over your head,” but to make sure it is a strong, FORTIFIED Roof.
Roofs Drive Damage
One way to understand the vulnerability of roofs is to look at the damage caused when they fail. In most years, roof-related damage is responsible for an estimated 70–90 percent of total insured residential catastrophic losses, depending on specific weather events. As startling as these insurance statistics may be, they fail to capture the gravity of the human consequences resulting from roof failures—damaged homes and businesses that disrupt daily life, break up families, derail careers, and destroy financial security. This knowledge is pushing IBHS and our Members to understand roof performance over time and to demand improvements.
FORTIFIED Roof Designations
Science-based best practices for strengthening roofs are embodied in the FORTIFIED program. A strong roof is the most cost-effective and accessible component of the family of FORTIFIED designations. Re-roofing presents opportunities for consumers to reduce their risk affordably with an investment in a FORTIFIED Roof upgrade. In order to draw consumer attention to the benefits of a FORTIFIED Roof, we need to brand and describe the product so they understand what that means.
As consumer understanding and demand grows, a key strategy for building “sunny day” FORTIFIED Roof capacity is the creation of partner “ecosystems”—e.g., manufacturers, installers, distributors, real estate professionals, inspectors, and building code officials—whose business models could benefit from participating with FORTIFIED Roof. Each of these partners can fill an IBHS delivery gap, contribute consumer solutions, or provide a necessary capability to spur action. Removing logistical and operational barriers is important to gaining their participation and reducing the transactional time and expense of the designation process.
1. Make FORTIFIED Roof IBHS’s marquee product line, rebranding from “FORTIFIED Bronze” for greater brand clarity.
2. Improve the affordability and accessibility of FORTIFIED Roof through new technology while maintaining quality.
3. Encourage state wind pools and FAIR plans, which insure the most vulnerable coastal homes, to use available capital to assist their policyholders in upgrading to a FORTIFIED Roof.
While targeting FORTIFIED Roof is a new thrust for IBHS, we will continue to seek opportunities to advance FORTIFIED Silver and Gold where there is builder/consumer demand, as described later in this plan.
Forward Progress on Roofs
IBHS research has identified best practices to improve residential and commercial roofs, and these are established in the IBHS FORTIFIED Home™ and FORTIFIED Commercial™ technical standards. That said, beyond the FORTIFIED program, incremental progress toward stronger, more durable roofs can be accomplished by advancing our research insights along multiple, parallel pathways.
One such pathway is to move key components of FORTIFIED Roofs into building codes in high-wind areas. For example, Connecticut’s recent amendments to the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) require that tape be applied over all horizontal and vertical joints before underlayment is applied to roof decking. This step is one of the most cost-effective and easy-to-install elements of the IBHS FORTIFIED Roof program. Similarly, wildfire codes should reflect best practices to resist ignition through the roof system.
Another pathway is to educate home and business owners to pay more attention to their roof, and to understand how to extend its life and reduce the likelihood of storm-related damage. Although consumers may begrudge spending the money, roof inspection, maintenance, and repair are necessary activities over the life of a roof. Again, while IBHS’s vision is a FORTIFIED Roof on every building, small investments to address problems as they arise can prevent significant damage in the future.
4. Educate consumers on the importance of a strong roof and encourage sunny day maintenance, repair, and replacement.
5. Engage the regulatory, code adoption, and enforcement sectors to bridge the existing roof protection gap between code and IBHS’s FORTIFIED Roof, prioritizing sealing the roof deck.
Roof Product Performance Testing
Preventing the unnecessary replacement of roofs and avoiding water infiltration into homes and businesses is directly tied to roofing system performance and product reliability. Not enough is known about how age and the severity and frequency of adverse weather work together to affect the lifetime performance of roofing systems. Some characteristics of products and systems drive better performance, and metrics can be developed to consistently predict performance as products age. A clear opportunity exists to classify products and systems to show differentiation by performance against our core perils, as well as durability, over time.
IBHS’s first important contribution to roof performance measurement is the hail impact standard for asphalt shingles. The current (Underwriters Laboratories 2218) test for determining the resistance of asphalt shingles to hail is based on impacts of steel ball bearings. The test has limited ability to recreate the physics of actual hail. IBHS replicated this test and produced research results that differed from the protections marketed to consumers. To address this gap, IBHS coupled hail field research (i.e., understanding the material properties of actual hailstones) and laboratory test protocol development to create a new hail impact test standard for asphalt shingles. Following extensive vetting of the protocol and input into the damage classification matrix, the initial results will be released in 2019.
By providing this information to consumers, IBHS will have linked foundational and applied research to develop an outward-facing product and a better way to evaluate asphalt shingle performance against hail. This model will serve as a roadmap for future product performance and installation method testing.
When Competing for Resources
As IBHS’s top priority, the vulnerability and performance of roof systems will dominate our agenda for all research perils. Roofs systems are commonly grouped as either residential or commercial. However, the convergence between residential and commercial construction is growing. Steep-slope roofs, associated with residential construction, are now commonly found in commercial buildings, and commercial low-slope or flat roof systems are now included in many home designs. IBHS’s comprehensive focus on the roof includes design, materials, and installation practices that are applicable to both residential and commercial roofing systems.
Research efforts that are not related to roofing will continue at the IBHS Research Center, yet they will not deter progress on initiatives that get to the heart of understanding, characterizing, and demonstrating roofing performance against our core perils.