4. What are the lessons that can be learned from the recovery process following Hurricane Katrina that can provide guidance in designing implementable strategies for making communities more resilient?


Just as tests of automobile safety are done so that people can make better choices about how to protect themselves and their families, testing of structures is under way. At a facility in South Carolina, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) can simulate category 1, 2, and 3 hurricanes; wildfires; hail storms; and other natural disasters to measure the durability of buildings. “We don’t believe any building can be considered high performance if durability is not a piece of the performance measure,” said Julie Rochman, president and chief executive officer of IBHS.

Communities exist in structures—not just in homes but in businesses and public buildings as well. Thus, structural durability is essential to prevent a cascading chain of failure that can destroy any community, large or small. Resilient buildings are also better for the environment, because they do not have to be buried in landfills if they are destroyed by a natural disaster.

Hurricane Katrina affected 14 states and easily could have affected 20. In that respect, the Gulf Coast is a warning belt for much of the rest of the United States, since wind- and water-related damage can occur in many places other than the coast, Rochman said. Those who care about the built environment also care about the bayous, the wetlands, and the natural barriers near coasts, since these pieces of the natural environment scrub energy off storms before they hit structures. In this way, the natural environment and the built environment are intertwined.

Financial incentives are often necessary to help people adopt effective mitigation measures, Rochman said. If people have to pay for mitigation without any incentives, they will tend not to do it. These incentives should extend to everyone with a stake in structures, such as mortgage lenders, tax appraisers, and realtors. People need to learn to “value resiliency more than they do granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.”

Building codes are compulsory standards, in contrast to voluntary incentives. However, most compulsory standards are written by a committee, which means that they inevitably carry “a tinge of politics.” Engineering and building science need to inform building codes for standards to be effective.

Also, a building code is a minimum standard, Rochman emphasized. In contrast, fortified programs, whether for new or existing buildings, call for building codes to be augmented by voluntary construction standards. IBHS, for example, provides a relatively inexpensive set of things that homeowners can do to improve the durability of their homes. Many of these address the roof. Once a roof cover is compromised, “all sorts of bad things can happen to the structure.” The measures

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