Rallying for resiliency

Understandably upstaged by federal tax policy wrangling are common sense U.S. House and Senate measures compelling states and builders to promote sound, performance-based residential and commercial construction practices. One bill introduced before Hurricane Sandy, and a second one after, have an underlying message to public and private property owners: If a future weather event sends you to Washington, D.C., with hat in hand for relief, demonstrate for all federal taxpayers a commitment to homes or buildings equipped for high wind and water delivered in vertical or horizontal bursts.

In late-2012 communiqués aimed at action in either the lame duck or new Congress, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and National Precast Concrete Association encouraged members to stress to federal lawmakers the importance of passing the Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act in conjunction with emergency funding and tax credit measures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Through H.R. 5839, builders applying resilient construction methods—complying with the 2009 International Building Code or later version—qualify for $3,000 and $25,000 tax credits, respectively, on residential and commercial projects in federally declared disaster zones.

Introduced in May, the NRMCA-authored bill dovetails with a December White House request that Congress allocate $60.4 billion for recovery and rebuilding efforts in New Jersey, New York and other areas hit hard by the fall’s extreme weather events. Administration officials contended that action is warranted “to prevent losses of this magnitude from future disasters” and recognize the need for “ensuring that funds are used most effectively.”

Hurricane Sandy relief provides ample opportunity for passage of Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction, which advances policy friendly to concrete building methods. NRMCA and NPCA urged members to contact their representatives in Congress and support the inclusion of H.R. 5839 in Sandy relief, reinforcing requests with these observations: disasters such as Hurricane Sandy are increasing in number and severity, at a major cost to federal government as post-event assistance is typically unfunded; and, promoting resilient construction in disaster areas will ensure more homes and buildings are able to withstand future extreme weather exposure while helping save lives and taxpayer dollars.

NRMCA Government Affairs staff followed Disaster Savings rallying with a nod to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for introducing The Safe Building Code Incentive Act, co-sponsored by Garden State colleague Frank Lautenberg and New York counterparts Kristin Gillibrand and Charles Schumer (Democrats all). Identical to a bipartisan House bill, the Senate measure provides states that enforce model building codes an additional 4 percent of post-disaster relief assistance.

In the White House’s $60 billion Sandy relief request, Safe Building would offer New Jersey and New York the prospect for an additional $2.4 billion—the two among 16 states that enforce model building codes. The bill’s provisions apply valuable lessons learned from natural disasters by making new homes and buildings stronger than those lost to Sandy, NRMCA affirms, adding that codes are the most effective means of mitigating against disasters, as they save lives, curtail damage and reduce future federal aid needs. Government Affairs staff also cites an estimated $80 billion in damages tied to superstorm Sandy, with 70,000 buildings in New Jersey alone seriously damaged—but potentially covered under retroactive provisions in Sen. Menendez’s bill.

Absent from the industry’s Safe Building and Disaster Savings promotion are prescriptive material specifications. When robust enclosures, value, code compliance, and home or building occupant safety are the objectives, only one product in a variety of its forms—cast-in-place, masonry, precast—rises to the occasion in our competitive construction market.