The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently submitted a report to Congress outlining steps to improve building functionality after natural disasters.
The report fills a request by Congress for “immediate occupancy (IO)” building codes and performance standards strategies to make more buildings more resilient to a wide variety of hazards. Existing standards and codes focus on reducing the likelihood of significant building damage or collapse, but do not typically address the need to preserve quality of life by keeping buildings habitable and functioning as normally as possible, a NIST official says.
Some of the obstacles to making buildings more functionally resilient after a natural disaster include:
— Convincing communities to invest in IO standards in advance of the event
— Clarifying the costs and benefits
— Influencing and incentivizing private owners to make the necessary investments in their buildings
— Determining special implementation procedures for public buildings since some do not have to comply with local codes
— Dealing with the old structures that tend to house the most at-risk populations
— Determining who is liable for building performance
— Encouraging collaboration in standards development
The report says that “increasing the performance goals for buildings would not be easily achieved, but the advantages may be substantial” and making them a reality “would entail a significant shift in practice for development, construction, and maintenance or retrofit of buildings.”