What Resilience in a Home Looks Like Depends on Where You Live

Disaster Response

The United States is subject to many different natural hazards that can change the dimensions of your neighborhood and town very quickly if an event impacts where you live.

The inaugural Building Resilience 19 conference in Cleveland was the first national gathering of building industry professionals focused exclusively on how to create more resilient buildings and communities. The "nuts and bolts" track of the conference provided attendees with research and practical construction techniques to help improve new and existing homes to better withstand the impacts of high winds, floods, wildfires and earthquakes.

Recent NAHB surveys to gauge builder and consumer interest in resilient home construction showed:

  • Builders who are incorporating resilient construction practices are focusing on wind resistance and elevation, and many of them were in areas where those practices are required in their state or community’s code;
  • Many consumers are not aware of the natural hazard risks in their area; and
  • Even where consumers may be aware of risk in their area, they are hesitant to spend money on these strategies.

Most areas of the country tend to be at higher risk for one or two hazards. Practices can be incorporated into new and existing homes to help increase the chance they will "weather the storm" by making them more resilient and enabling home owners to repair and remain in those homes.

  • Earthquake: Building codes and standards largely focus on preventing collapse during earthquakes and allowing occupants to escape damaged buildings. Earthquake-targeted resilient building practices focus on reducing damage so owners and tenants can stay in their homes, even if repairs need to be made. Conference speakers focused on techniques for constructing foundations in areas of weaker soils where the ground is susceptible to liquefaction.
  • Wind: Wind damage can occur as a result of tornadoes, hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. High winds can blow or lift siding and roofing materials off a building. Presenters discussed how to select wind-resistant roofing, windows and doors, and how to provide a continuous load path through a dwelling’s structural elements from the roof down to the foundation. An International Code Council (ICC) representative also presented on storm shelters and the ICC 500 standard, which is currently being updated.
  • Flooding: Hurricanes and other extreme rainfall events can cause localized flooding or result in delayed downstream floods. Building codes and the National Flood Insurance Program require new homes and existing homes undergoing substantial improvements or repairs to be elevated above predicted flood levels. Strategies discussed to help minimize damage in any new or existing home included using materials that can dry without rotting or losing strength, applying sealants and coatings to minimize water intrusion, and locating electrical outlets at least one foot above flood elevation to minimize electrical damage.
  • Wildfire: The Institute for Home and Building Safety presented on ways to create a defensible space around a new or existing home to reduce nearby fire fuel sources and the ability of the fire to "jump" to the home. Construction strategies focused on the use of fire-resistant roofing and gutter materials, and the importance of keeping gutters clean to eliminate material that could ignite from blowing embers.

An online NAHB education module on resiliency is under development. For members attending the 2020 International Builders' Show, NAHB's Resiliency Working Group meets Sunday, Jan. 19, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in LVCC North 262.

For more information about NAHB’s sustainable and green building programs, visit nahb.org. And to stay current on the high-performance residential building sector, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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