Law steers Federal agencies toward resilient construction

Sources: National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.; CP staff

Along with funding the federal government through September, the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill President Donald Trump signed into law earlier this month includes NRMCA-advocated positions or directives for agencies influencing residential and commercial building design.

Passages in the law echo reports of U.S. House and Senate committees overseeing the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Commerce and Homeland Security. HUD-directed language defines resilient construction methods as those that “(1) allow a structure to resist hazards brought on by a major disaster, (2) allow a structure to continue to provide the primary functions of the structure following a major disaster, (3) reduce the magnitude or duration of a disruptive event to a structure, and (4) allow the structure to have the absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity, and recoverability to withstand a potentially disruptive event.”

“The [House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development] Committee supports enhanced resiliency for new construction and renovation [and] urges HUD to study technologies, elements, and materials that create more resilient single and multi-family homes such as lean manufacturing, safe rooms, and alternative materials to improve durability and safety during natural disasters,” the law states.

NRMCA Government Affairs staff cites additional aspects that will help proponents of sound construction methods in federal agency outreach. The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is urged to study building codes and make recommendations on fortified structures.

“Disaster Resilient Buildings” commentary from a Senate committee report encourages the use of resilient construction techniques above and beyond building code requirements. “The Committee recognizes the importance of industry and municipal standards to better mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather events, which can save lives, reduce destruction to property, and enable faster economic recovery,” it states. “Current building codes often do not provide the necessary protection against natural hazards, particularly with regard to enabling immediate occupancy after a significant earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, or other natural disaster.

“The Committee supports efforts to promote the use of resilient engineering design and construction techniques to improve the resiliency of buildings, homes, and infrastructure, and encourages NIST to partner with academic research institutions and industry stakeholders that have expertise in mitigating the effects of natural disasters to study and recommend best practices for resilient planning and construction.”

Another committee report covering Homeland Security prompts the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider adopting uniform guidelines on safe rooms for federally-funded structures in areas prone to severe weather and hazards, plus uniform national guidelines for safe room design and construction.