The centerpiece of our research program is the IBHS Research
Center in Chester County, S.C. It is the only laboratory of its
kind in the world. Using a 105-fan array and other specialized
equipment, our engineers can recreate a variety of highly realistic wind, rain, fire, and hail events. Other test facilities use
scaled-down models or pieces of buildings; we are able to look
at entire structures as a system.
The ability to mimic natural disasters in a controlled,
repeatable way allows us to demonstrate the effectiveness, affordability, and financial value of stronger building codes and
better-built structures; identify effective solutions to building
vulnerabilities; strengthen the relationship between theoretical
and real building performance; and validate/improve current
scientific bases for designing and installing building products
and systems. We then translate our research findings into actionable, effective recommendations for public policy and
market-based approaches to mitigation, in order to provide the
most cost-effective protection possible across America.
When structures aren’t as frequently or as severely damaged,
fewer people are injured or killed. In addition, building owners
who are insured save money they otherwise would spend to cover
deductibles or uninsured losses; private-sector property insurance systems are stronger; and economic upheaval is reduced,
as jobs and property/sales tax bases are preserved. Also, from an
environmental perspective, less debris from natural disasters (and
the rebuilding efforts thereafter) keeps landfills from filling up,
and less rebuilding reduces our collective carbon footprint.
From a more macro perspective, the public share of response and recovery costs associated with natural disasters
has been growing rapidly. For example, according to the Build-Strong coalition, federal disaster assistance as a percentage of
the total losses from natural disasters is increasing, with U.S.
taxpayers shouldering 80 percent today, compared to 25 percent paid by taxpayers in 1990. Clearly, the many types of cost
curves related to natural disasters must be bent in a more favorable direction.
Bounce Back After Disaster
So, what makes a resilient community? Well, if the homes in an
area are intact after a disaster, but businesses are down or destroyed, people are forced to leave to find employment or services,
and the community may never recover, let alone be the same as
it was before the event. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency estimates that 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster. Business continuity planning and
structural hardening are essential to protecting the job base and
tax revenue that fuels economic recovery growth. In many communities, small business is the dominant private-sector employer.
Above: A home undergoes testing at the IBHS Research
Center. Below: A fan array models wind damage at the
IBHS Research Center.