Overcoming the Barriers to Implementing Resilience Standards


1200px-Bolivar15(Gilchrist_Slab)A few days ago, I started off a discussion on Resilience Design Standards and why they may be an important standard for both new and existing buildings to start considering. These standards are expected to help prepare buildings and infrastructure for natural disaster and man-made disaster. Discussion on resilience standards has been going on for a while and following resilience standards look to work. A well known 2005 study by the National Institute of Building Science titled Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities, found that for every $1 invested in hazard mitigation society saves $4. The push for a greater national focus on resilience standards came from President Obama’s 2016 proclamation for National Building Safety Month. With this proclamation was the creation of the US Army Corp of Engineers Building Resilience web site, a nice source to get started on learning more about resilience standards. Even with a growing discussion of the need to become more resilient, greater resources being provided, a multitude of standards available, there still does not seem to be a considerable amount of uptake, particularly in the commercial building space. According the findings of a 2017 Meister Consulting Group study, the “resilience standards market is still nascent, most of the standards are in pilot phases, or with their first customers.”

Identifying and implementing particular standards are expensive, both time and money. We have seen this with the growth of more climate mitigation focused green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes, IgCC, etc.  To follow and implement requirements for these standards has historically required a bit of premium on up-front costs. Today, in many cases building “green” is much more cost competitive and is largely expected in much of the industry. The actual certification can still be a bit pricey, however. However, the benefit of these standards are that if implemented appropriately and maintained, the building will have improved building operations and lower cost as compared to other standard buildings. Higher performance systems and better quality building practices will likely lower operating costs and emissions. Further, many of these standards are demanded in the market because they are known to result in higher quality operations and buildings. Much of the commercial market has shifted to much of the LEED standards due to the success LEED has had in improving building quality. Now LEED is dealing with this success and upping its game a bit, i.e. the dynamic LEED plaque. The discussion on the evolution of LEED and green building is a whole other blog post. The point here is that the green building standards have largely been shown to have a positive economic impact on a building through lower operating costs, improved building comfort, lower emissions, etc. all resulting in higher demand in the market.

Unfortunately, the resilience standards have not made the ROI connection. I would argue the primary reason is that resilience standards are preparing a building for something that is uncertain. By following these standards the building owner does not know when the payoff will occur. We know the “put your extreme weather event here” is coming, but when, what will be the magnitude and how often will it occur? As a building owner and operator, I know my investment in green building standards like LEED will have a payback in X number of years. For resilience standards, I am less certain of this and therefore less willing to to invest as heavily in these standards.


How do we improve the uptake of these standards? It really is not a question of should we start promoting these standards. The trend is in the positive direction for more extreme weather events.

munichre storm events
MunichRe Report on Loss Events

One of the key stakeholders are insurance and reinsurance companies.  They have a significant stake in the robustness and resilience of our built environment. The role for these companies is to potentially provide discounts to building owners to build to resilience standards. The Meister report had a good example of the FORTIFIED program that provides an example of how insurance companies may provide discounts and or state’s provide tax incentives if standards are followed. It would also be in the interest of financial institutions to push a bit more for resilience standards. These organizations are financing, buying and selling properties for long-periods of time that would see significant less risk if resilience standards are met. There are some underwriting standards that are being developed or are in early stages such as SuRe Standard and the RELi Resilience Action List.

An option to potentially lower the cost of these standards, and to improve understanding of how they work, is local and state governments leading by example. Much of these facilities are seen as critical infrastructure and should already have some level of resilience built into them. If governments begin to design and build to specific resilience standards, the entire design, construction and financing sectors will better understand how to effectively implement and pay for these improvements. A great local example for Houston was Mayor Bill White’s Green Building Resolution (GBR) in 2004. For the GBR, the City of Houston took the lead in bringing LEED to the entire City of Houston.  There was no mandate, only capacity and knowledge building of the market which has resulted in Houston being a leader in meeting green building standards. Maybe the City of Houston should again take a leadership position and help to build the resilience standards market, as well.

Additional Information from the Meister Report. A rather comprehensive list of resilience standards. 




 Alliance for National and Community Resilience (ANCR). A nonprofit formed by the International Code Council with partners from the nonprofit and private sectors, ANCR is currently designing the Community Resilience Benchmarks system, a rating system for community resilience.

 Building Resilience—Los Angeles (BRLA). Developed by the US Green Building Council–Los Angeles, BRLA seeks to strengthen community resilience by positioning facilities preparedness in the context of resilience for the broader community. BRLA staff have started to deliver trainings, but benchmarking standards are still in development.

 Building Resilience Rating Tool (BRRT). The BRRT was created by the Insurance Council of Australia as a simplified version of insurance company hazard rating tools. Currently in beta testing, the tool provides a baseline assessment of risk from natural hazards faced by residential homes.

 Community resilience assessment methodology (CRAM). Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, CRAM was designed to assess infrastructure preparedness to better understand overall community resilience. The methodology is currently in draft form.

 Enterprise Green Communities. The Enterprise Green Communities certification program is administered by Enterprise Community Partners, a lender to affordable housing projects, and is designed for new and existing affordable housing facilities. While focused primarily on green building design, the certification criteria incorporate resilient design components and are complemented by the Ready to Respond Toolkit. Both the certification program and the toolkit are available in the market.

 Envision. Developed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard, Envision is designed to measure the sustainability of public works projects, with resilience as a key consideration. Envision is available in the market.

 FORTIFIED. The FORTIFIED standards are designed to build resilience to hurricanes, high winds, and hail, and can be applied to business, commercial, and residential properties. They were developed by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. FORTIFIED is available in the market.

 Interagency Concept for Community Resilience (ICCR). In 2016, the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group, an interagency working group co-led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released a draft of indicators identifying national-level measures that contribute to community resilience.

 LEED pilot credits. The LEED pilot credits on resilient design aim to build resilience at the facility level through the identification of hazards and the development of emergency preparedness procedures. They are designed to be pursued in conjunction with the LEED certification process.

The pilot credits are currently available through the Building Design and Construction rating system.

 Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER). Developed by the Electric Power Research Institute and Motorola, the PEER standard addresses the reliability and resilience of electrical infrastructure. The standard is available in the market.

 Resiliency Action List (RELi). RELi was developed by the Capital Markets Partnership and the C3 Living Design Project in conjunction with Perkins+Will and several other collaborators as a national consensus standard. It aims to increase adaptability and reduce sensitivity to hazards for building occupants. RELi is currently being piloted by several facilities.

 Resilience-based Earthquake Design Initiative (REDi). The REDi rating system was developed by Arup as a standard for addressing seismic hazards. REDi is available in the market.

 Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). Administered by Green Business Certification, Inc., SITES is designed to build resilience by strengthening the ecosystem services of landscapes. SITES is available in the market.

 Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC). UFC was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The criteria incorporate sustainability principles and considerations for resilience to natural, climate-induced, and human-induced hazards. The criteria are used by U.S. military facilities.


Published by

Gavin Dillingham

Program Director for Clean Energy Policy at HARC a sustainability research institute in The Woodlands, TX. Work on climate adaptation and investment strategies for resilient infrastructure.

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