From destructive hurricanes to fierce tornadoes, it seems news of catastrophic events is happening with alarming frequency. In fact, on March 3, 2020, an EF3 tornado tracked less than one mile from the LP Building Solutions headquarters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, ripping through homes and businesses. While no traditional building can withstand the tremendous forces of disastrous weather events, it reminds us that embracing resilient construction and adopting stronger building codes could help protect our families, friends and neighbors.
What is sustainability in building design?
In some areas, the definitions of sustainability and resiliency dovetail together. Sustainable construction is the practice of reducing or eliminating environmental impact.
Resilient design architecture is the intentional design of buildings and communities in response to natural and manmade disasters. “Disaster-resistant homes are designed to withstand a disaster event while making that building operational—or able to occupy—after the event,” says housing expert and licensed architect Sam Rashkin, founder of Retooling the Housing Industry. “Disaster resistance is part of high-performance home construction, helping occupants survive the event and live in the structure after the fact.”
Sustainability and resiliency in the national building code
National building codes set the standard for safe, affordable construction of all buildings and specify the minimum requirements for safeguarding people and property. The national building codes do not address resilient building construction. However, as the country endures natural disasters and the aftereffects of wind and flooding, revisions to the building codes may influence resilient design and building. As the impacts of climate change accelerate, the need to rapidly assess and integrate the economic benefits of building resiliently, both in the public and private sectors, is imperative.
Impact of resilient building codes
Certain areas of the U.S. have adopted tough building codes to help safeguard residents and their property from disasters. From hurricane-resistant construction in Florida to Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) structure policies in wildfire-prone California, surveying damage after a disaster has hit has shown that stricter local codes are working.
Advocates who enthusiastically adopt means to strengthen building structures against wind, fire and water are better equipped to adhere to and exceed local, state and federal building. A host of nonprofit consumer advocate groups—such as Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Alliance for National and Community Resilience, BuildStrong Coalition, and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—work with builders, architects, construction professionals, local government and homeowners to adopt structural and aftermarket products to create more resilient homes.
Prioritizing resilient design in building codes
As builders and professional contractors know, flood risk changes over time and for many reasons. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) updates flood hazard maps to indicate risk at a property-by-property level.
However, stronger building codes do not follow behind these flood maps. Homeowners mapped in high-risk areas are thereby required to purchase flood insurance if their mortgage is supported by a federally regulated or insured lender.
Prioritizing the design and construction of a resilient building envelope that is supported by locally enforced building codes can help save lives and significantly reduce property damage. Many areas across the country are recognizing the need for resilient design, and architects and builders are exploring ways to build above the standard required for building codes.
In large metropolitan areas and in progressive cities, building codes are strictly enforced. However, in many areas, there is no codes enforcement.
At LP, we are hopeful builders and professionals look to constantly innovate, both in resilient and sustainable construction, seeking to build long-lasting and enduring homes built over and above the local code.
Sustainability affects us all. See how LP manages the environmental footprint of all our operations and the details guiding our environmental management initiatives.