By most measures, 2020 was the year of COVID-19. Yet while the pandemic raged, there was no shortage of climate/weather disasters in the United States. In 2020, the U.S. suffered through 22 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. These events included one drought, 13 severe storms, 7 tropical cyclones, and one wildfire event. 2020 set a new annual record of 22 events - shattering the previous annual record of 16 events that occurred in 2011 and 2017. Together these events were responsible for 262 deaths and over $93 billion in costs.[i] And the hits just kept coming since then – e.g., “snow-mageddon” in Texas in early 2021, for which the total damages and long-term impacts are still being calculated, tornadoes earlier this month in Central Texas, as well as flooding events in the Southeastern U.S./Gulf Coast region.
The severity and number of such significant events is on the rise. The 1980–2019 annual average was 6.6 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2015–2019) was 13.8 events (CPI-adjusted). 2020 was the sixth consecutive year (2015-2020) in which weather and climate disaster events totaling at least $10+ billion in damages have impacted the United States.
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2020). https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/
As a result, interest in building resiliency (where “building” is a noun, not a verb) is also on the rise. Resilience is an important factor in the measure of a building’s sustainability and performance. As these events become more common, a building’s ability to withstand such events without damage increases in relative importance.
The 2020 National Green Building Standard ICC-700 (NGBS) is the first NGBS version to include a section to address a building’s resilience. Section 613 Resilient Construction for new construction and Section 11.613 Resilient Construction for the renovation of existing buildings provide certification points for enhanced resilience and durability above building code minimum design loads. What this means is that architects, designers, developers, and builders that design and construct more resilient homes and multifamily buildings can earn recognition for their buildings’ enhanced ability to withstand the forces generated by flooding, snow, wind, or seismic activity and reduce the potential for the loss of life and property.[ii]613 RESILIENT CONSTRUCTION
613.1 Intent. Design and construction practices developed by a licensed design professional or equivalent are implemented to enhance the resilience and durability of the structure (above building code minimum design loads) so the structure can better withstand forces generated by flooding, snow, wind, or seismic activity (as applicable) and reduce the potential for the loss of life and property.
613.2 Minimum structural requirements (base design). The building is designed and constructed in compliance with structural requirements in the IBC or IRC as applicable. (2 points)
613.3 Enhanced resilience (10% above base design). Design and construction practices are implemented to enhance the resilience and durability of the structure by designing and building to forces generated by flooding, snow, wind, or seismic (as applicable) that are 10% higher than the base design. (3 points)
613.4 Enhanced resilience (20% above base design). Design and construction practices are implemented to enhance the resilience and durability of the structure by designing and building to forces generated by flooding, snow, wind, or seismic (as applicable) that are 20% higher than the base design. (5 points)
The resilience section reproduced above is abbreviated – the 2020 NGBS also includes practices that recognizes enhanced resilience up to 50% above the base design.
The NGBS Resilient Construction Sections were intentionally written to be a design-based performance metric, as opposed to a prescriptive checklist of best practices. The 2020 NGBS and previous versions include additional prescriptive-based resilience practices – such as, §602.1.2 foundation waterproofing, §706.6 on-site renewable energy system, and §706.11 grid interactive battery storage system – but the new resilient construction practices allow resilience to be more customized for the specific project, weather conditions, and natural hazards in the local area. This innovative design approach differs from other green building certification programs, such as LEED and Green Communities, which only have a very limited checklist approach for how buildings might manage potential natural hazards. The NGBS’s pragmatic approach to resilience is consistent with how the NGBS promotes sustainability and green in general ꟷ it recognizes that once a building meets a credible performance baseline, the best way to higher performance is to incentivize architects, builders, and developers to adopt the best design and construction strategies that suit their location, climate, market, client, and budget.
Builders and developers may ask if earning NGBS Green at any certification level will adequately convey that a building is designed to have superior resilience in the face of natural hazards. After all, recognition of a building’s special features is much of the value conferred by the green certification. To address this concern, Home Innovation launched NGBS Green+ which bestows special recognition for NGBS Green Certified buildings that go "above and beyond" in certain areas of green practices, such as resilience, energy efficiency, and wellness. To earn the NGBS Green+ RESILIENCE badge, a builder must provide documentation confirming their home/building has been designed and constructed to provide at least 30% enhanced resilience and durability beyond the structural requirements of the IBC or IRC, as applicable, and must show that they have on-site renewable energy and a battery energy storage system. You can read more about the NGBS Green+ recognition in Cindy’s recent blog.
Craving more info on resilience? You’re in luck! We’ve got a post coming soon featuring an interview with James M Williams PE, CE, SE, AIA, who authored the 2020 NGBS’s resiliency section.
Questions about NGBS Green certification in general, or the new resilience elements of the 2020 NGBS? Contact us.
[i] Cost statistics do not include Western Wildfires – California, Oregon, Washington Firestorms (Fall 2020), Western/Central Drought and Heatwave (Summer-Fall 2020), Hurricane Sally (September 2020)
[ii] The 2020 NGBS also has a practice to address wildfires, which is not discussed here – 503.1(8) Developer has a plan to design and construct the lot in accordance with the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC)***