Insights to the National Institute of Building Sciences - 2017 Building Innovation Conference

Posted on 2/16/2017 12:33:47 PM By Paul Bertram

As the 2017 year began, the National Institute of Building Science held its annual Building Innovation conference in Washington DC in January. Resilience was the one overarching theme that resonated in many of the sessions. Resilience, for the purpose, of this discussion, was presented as: How fast a building can rebound from extreme weather conditions.

Establishing a definition for Resilience falls into the same problematic categories of “Sustainability” and “Durability”. These terms seem to be interrelated and causing confusion in the industry.

In sessions related to building codes, ICC representatives expressed that resilience is already in the codes. They cited examples that included wind & snow loads, tornadic impacts, fire, seismic, and flooding. During this session, Resilience was defined as: the ability to prepare and plan for absorbing and recovery; or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events.

Key to this presentation was the reminder that building codes are the minimum level of compliance requirements.

In many of the presentations building code adoption was cited as an impediment for delivering High Performance resilient buildings because of the long code development improvement cycles and even longer adoption timelines. In relationship to increasing extreme weather conditions, this leaves buildings more vulnerable to expensive damage and insurance payout, let alone the social impacts.

The ICC compliance process is intended to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. 

Recently, the ICC Board directed staff to engage the stakeholders by announcing a "Call for Feedback" on any and all aspects of the ICC code development process. The next step in the process is the deadline for feedback, which is Feb. 15 comments can be sent to

The Resilience Building Coalition, led by the AIA and the National Institute of Building Sciences, released its progress report in 2016. They also released a set of guiding principles to help the building industry adopt resilient design and policies. These include developing and advocating for codes and policies that advance resilience; developing “whole-systems resilient design” approaches for the built environment; and providing guidance, beyond the baseline life-safety codes, that recognizes the importance of fortifying property for individual and community resilience. Since the initial signing, the Coalition has added 19 new signatories. The Adhesives and Sealants council is not listed.

Additionally, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) along with the Obama White House held a summit last year to advance Resilience in the building codes. LEED has also introduced several Resilience based pilot credits.

Also worth noting: ASTM C24 Building Seals and Sealants just passed a Guide titled: Standard Guide for Improved Laboratory Accelerated Tests to Predict the Weathering and for Developing Methods to Predict the Design Life of Building Sealant Systems, the work item can be viewed here. This new guide will outline a systematic approach to developing an accelerated life testing method including the identification of needed information, the development of accelerated tests, the interpretation of data and the reporting of results. Chris White, Research Chemist with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has led the effort on this document that will allow industry to advance efforts with service life prediction.

As someone who has lived through and monitored hurricanes since 1972, I would offer the observation that codes are developed through reactive and not proactive process. Increasing extreme weather events are a call for code process to make faster changes to the base code and incentivize faster adoption by local jurisdictions. Higher frequency of extreme weather conditions is call enough to move beyond current related codes based on lessons learned.

The National Institute of Building Sciences Multihazard Mitigation Council conducted a widely cited study, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities, which documented how every $1 spent on mitigation saves society an average of $4

In their research paper, Developing Pre-Disater Resilence Based on Public and Private Incentivization, it is suggested that perhaps the insurance industry should consider “resilience” improvements as risk reduction.

Superstorm Sandy is a great example to study regarding Resilience in building codes.

Why did Superstorm Sandy impact New York with such devastation? If you go back 10 to 20 years and look at population density, you will find the answer. More population in the same spaces along with inadequate codes for a changing climate. Greater damage to property and massive insurance claims.

New York City resilience efforts include considering what happens with loss of power in extreme temperature as related to occupant comfort.The Urban Green Council  paper “Baby Its’s Cold Inside”modeled buildings performance with a loss of power in extreme heat and cold scenarios. This example will likely impact how energy modeling is calculated and supports the need for functional mockups to validate the models and interim enclosure commissioning to better ensure the desired design intent.

Resilient adhesives and sealants are important for several reasons as presented by Building Science Corporation: control of moisture damage, reduce energy, losses, ensure occupant comfort health. 

In closing, most of the resilience discussion focused on buildings and communities. However, buildings are the sum of the parts.The challenge that I might offer to ASC members in the building sector might be to explore additional testing considerations that go beyond compliance as related to “Resilience” of specific materials, systems and assemblies.