Building Codes: Everyday Tools for Disaster Preparedness and Relief

In the days following the powerful assault of Hurricane Michael on the Florida Panhandle, images of widespread devastation headlined television news coverage and print media. Not as prone to hurricane activity as the rest of Florida, the area hit by the almost Category 5 storm had many older homes built prior to the enactment of stricter building codes put into place after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. As a result, many structures built to less stringent requirements were unprepared to weather the onslaught of wind, rain, and debris tossed by Michael’s sustained 155-mph winds.

Nothing can guarantee a structure’s integrity when faced with such brutal conditions. However, contrast the post-storm condition of those older structures with that of newer buildings and the benefits of more rigorous regulations are clear. The aerial images of the impacted communities illustrate the value of implementing building codes that can contribute to greater resiliency both for the structures themselves and for the safety and comfort of the people and property contained within them during and after a storm makes landfall.

Media coverage of the storm’s aftermath included profiles of some of the structures that fared better than their neighbors. The New York Timesran a profile entitled, “Among the Ruins of Mexico Beach Stands One House, Built ‘for the Big One’” and the Washington Post published an article entitled, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.” 

When interviewed on CNN, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said, “… there’s a lesson here about building codes. The key to resiliency in this country is where our local officials and state officials are going to have to do something proactively to start passing building codes to high standards.” 

As is often the case in the wake of a disaster, there is a profusion of interest in exploring strategies to protect communities and properties from devastation. These articles and interview reveal that building structures with conscious attention to resiliency can offer markedly improved performance in extreme weather. As an added bonus, many of the products and processes that deliver this resiliency can also contribute to decreased energy usage and operational costs for buildings regardless of the weather they’re subjected to.

Even before this summer’s series of destructive storms, elected officials and government agencies were working to implement wide-ranging strategies to protect our communities. Updating state and local building codes, which exist to safeguard life and protect private and public interests through regulating the design, construction practices, construction material quality, location, occupancy usage, and maintenance of buildings and structures, is one of the most effective ways to increase the safety and resiliency of our built environment.

Congressional Action

On two occasions this year, Congress enacted reforms for disaster preparedness that raise the profile and importance of building codes in planning for and recovering from disasters. The nation’s disaster relief law — the StaffordAct— was first reformed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act and later reformed with permanent fixes under the FAA Reauthorization bill passed in October 2018. 

Under these amendments, building code adoption and enforcement are added as eligible activities and criteria used in grant programs aimed at reducing the impact of future disasters. In other words, states that act to adopt modern building codes and standards will be eligible for additional federal assistance in the event disaster strikes. Moreover, the reforms allow damaged buildings to be rebuilt with federal support to better withstand future events, rather than merely restored to their pre-disaster condition. 

While these changes do not specifically address energy codes, adopting and updating building codes will also lead to improvements in energy performance. Energy efficiency is a key part of a building’s — and a community’s — ability to withstand and quickly recover after a disaster. For example, a well-insulated building can maintain a comfortable temperature when power is lost or intermittent. Building energy codes will also encourage the construction of more robust building envelope systems that can help avoid the crippling effects of moisture intrusion that are common in severe weather events.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first nine months of 2018 (through October 9) resulted in 11 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. Moody’s Analyticsestimates that losses resulting from Hurricane Michael will cost between $15 and $21 billion. Damage to homes and businesses are a major contributor to the total financial impact of a disaster. 

Buildings constructed to meet or exceed modern building codes can therefore play an important role in reducing the overall economic impact of natural disasters. According to the “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report”published by the National Institute of Building Sciences, the model building codes developed by the International Code Council can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent. In addition, designing new buildings to exceed the 2015 International Building Code(IBC) and International Residential Code(IRC) would result in 87,000 new, long-term jobs and an approximate 1 percent increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.

While people, pets and some belongings can be evacuated to safety with enough warning and resources, buildings can’t be moved to higher ground or be rebuilt overnight in anticipation of an oncoming storm. Indeed, buildings are often the only things separating people from the brutal forces of natural disasters. The protection they offer is often determined by the quality of the construction materials and the installation methods used, which are themselves often regulated by the safety standards in place at the time of original construction or major renovation. 

The recognition by Congress that modern building codes deliver an answer to disaster preparedness is a positive for homeowners and businesses across the country. States now have added incentive to prepare for tomorrow by enacting and enforcing better building codes today. And more exacting building codes will create momentum to raise the bar for all of the codes that work together to create stronger and more resilient buildings that will contribute to better outcomes in extreme weather and reduced energy consumption in any weather. 

About the author: Justin Koscher is president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA). For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

Weather, Congress Among Variables Likely to Affect Industry in the Year Ahead

As we move forward in 2019, the roofing industry can expect to be influenced by two sometimes out-of-control, difficult to predict forces: the weather and the United States Congress. Add to the equation a shifting economic outlook, as well as uncertain immigration policies, and you have a potentially toxic mix that makes any projection difficult. But there are some constants in the current environment that can help guide strategies for the roofing industry, and here’s our take on what to expect as this decade winds to a close.

There may be some limited success in tackling immigration reform, but don’t expect enough change to mitigate the labor shortage experienced by roofing companies. The Trump-promised wall has yet to be built, but actions to slow illegal immigration have been somewhat successful. The roofing industry has pressed for immigration reform; experts estimate that worker shortages account for up to 20 percent in lost roofing business each year, and sensible immigration reform could help end those shortages. The Center for Construction Research and Training, or CPWR, points out that in some construction occupations, including roofing, more than half of the workers are of Hispanic origin. So, the roofing industry certainly has a compelling case to be made for reform. 

Balancing the demand for secure borders against the need for additional workers has so far failed to produce meaningful legislation. Given the intense disagreement on how to move forward, 2019 will most likely be another year of bipartisan gridlock on this issue. The encouraging news comes from two areas of activity: innovations that promote ease of roofing installation, and industry efforts to certify roofing workers and increase the prestige of working in the trades. These efforts may help to recoup some of the business that has been lost because of the labor shortage, but only rational immigration reform will help to meet the unmet demand.

The weather may, in fact, be more predictable than the lawmakers who just assembled on Capitol Hill. Late in November of this past year, the Federal Government released the National Climate Assessment, the fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The Congressionally mandated thousand-page report delivered a sobering warning about the impact of climate change on the United States and its economy, detailing hownatural disasters are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and predicting that they may become much worse. 

While some may challenge the reality of long-term climate change, statistics tell us that short-term increases in cataclysmic weather events are an indisputable fact of life. And a temporary lull in these disasters cannot be taken as a sign of a change in weather patterns. For instance, as of early August this past year, the Tropical Meteorology Team at Colorado State University downgraded the forecast for the rest of the year, until November 1, from      “slightly above average Atlantic hurricane season” to less than anticipated. They were correct, for a while. No hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during the rest of August, making it the first season in five years without a storm of hurricane magnitude. But just as forecasters were declaring victory over unpredictable nature, Hurricane Florence delivered a pounding to the Carolinas in early September, and in October Hurricane Michael devastated much of the Florida panhandle. The erratic weather patterns did not stop at the end of the hurricane season: an early December storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on parts of the Carolinas that rarely see that much during an entire winter. So much for the predicted respite from extreme weather conditions.

The difficult-to-predict weather is creating one certainty for the roofing industry: customers will increasingly be looking for durable materials and systems that can withstand weather extremes. Additionally, the focus is turning to anticipating destructive weather and mitigating its potential impact by creating resilient structures. ERA has just produced its first annual report, “Building Resilience: The Roofing Perspective.” We anticipate updating this product each year to help provide the roofing industry with the latest approaches to creating resilient roofing systems. 

Unpredictable labor markets and unpredictable weather patterns are defining the “new normal” for our industry and will no doubt be part of our reality in 2019. But based on past performance, there’s at least one certainty we can count on: the roofing industry will come out ahead in the face of these challenges, providing our customers with innovative products and superior service and providing our employees with a work environment that ensures a secure future.

About the Author: Jared Blum is the executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), www.epdmroofs.org, and serves as chair of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 

Benefits of High-Density Polyisocyanurate Cover Boards for Roofing Systems

High-density polyiso cover boards are designed to provide a combination of impact resistance, energy savings, and ease of installation to enhance the long-term performance of a commercial roof system. Photo: Firestone Building Products

Roofing projects, whether new construction or renovation, require careful product selection to balance cost with performance. Many contractors choose to include cover boards in their roof designs to enhance overall system durability and lower long-term maintenance costs, particularly for low-slope commercial roof applications. There are many cover board products currently available — ranging from traditional gypsum board to highly engineered polyisocyanurate (or “polyiso”) technologies. Across product types, cover boards are an important component in roof systems that provide a rigid substrate and protection for other components of the roof system.

Selecting the right cover board for your project means verifying that the product will work with the chosen membrane type to provide a stable foundation for the roof and suitable protection for the underlying insulation. Understanding the unique benefits of a high-density polyiso cover board product can help roofing contractors reduce labor costs and save money during the construction process, while also contributing to lower building energy usage over the long-term life of the roof system.

Benefits of High-Density Polyiso Cover Boards

High-density polyiso cover boards provide a combination of impact resistance, energy savings, and ease of installation that make them a compelling option. They are manufactured with coated glass facers that provide well-recognized versatility during installation and service-life durability. By adding a high-density polyiso cover board, roofing contractors can enhance the long-term performance of a commercial roof system in addition to providing the following advantages:

  • Lightweight: High-density polyiso cover boards, on average, weigh 66 to 80 percent less, when compared to other products of the same thickness. Individual boards are light enough to be carried by a single worker, reducing manpower requirements.
  • High-density polyiso cover boards are light enough to be carried by a single worker, reducing manpower requirements. Photo: Firestone Building Products

    Water resistance: The water absorption by volume of high-density polyiso cover boards is about four percent—much lower than traditional boards. High-density polyiso cover boards will not rot or dissolve and can maintain their integrity under adverse weather conditions.

  • Fewer truckloads: High-density polyiso cover boards can be shipped with about three times more square feet per truckload, requiring fewer trucks, which leads to fuel and transportation savings, as well as reduced traffic congestion on job sites.
  • Reduced product staging time: High-density polyiso cover boards require less crane time with lower hoisting, loading, and staging costs. The cover boards are easier to carry and maneuver around the roof. Pallets need not be broken or redistributed as they might need to be with other products.
  • Ease of cutting: Unlike traditional gypsum boards which require heavy-duty saws or cutters to resize, high-density polyiso cover boards can be easily scored and cut using a utility knife. A single worker can measure and cut boards to size, increasing the productivity of the roofing team.
  • Weight: When considering a building’s structural design, high-density polyiso cover boards will contribute less dead load to a roof than other alternatives. Lighter dead loads can add up to savings in structural costs for new construction and fewer headaches when reroofing an existing building.
  • Greater R-value: In addition to providing suitable protection to a roof system, high-density polyiso cover boards can increase the thermal resistance of the roof and provide two to five times more R-value than other cover board options.
  • Virtually dust-free: High-density polyiso cover boards are made with polyisocyanurate foam found in insulation products, which contribute less dust during cutting. This can decrease potential seam contamination of the roof cover prior to waterproofing the laps. Reduced dust and the absence of silica particles also enhances worker safety. And, less mess also means improved productivity for installers.
  • Mold: High-density polyiso cover boards resist mold growth when tested under ASTM D3273. This makes the products highly suitable for applications prone to elevated moisture conditions.
  • Resiliency: Higher compressive strength and flexibility in cover boards improves a roof’s resistance to damage from foot traffic, heavily loaded carts, dropped hammers and other tools.
  • Versatility: High-density polyiso cover boards can be used in new construction, reroofing, and recover applications. They are suitable in mechanically attached, adhered and ballasted roof assemblies.

High-Density Cover Boards Help Ohio High School Achieve LEED Gold Certification

When the Green Local School District in Ohio began making plans for a new high school to be built in Smithville, they wanted to build for the long-term. Recognizing that operating costs should be factored into building budgets, they set a goal to seek LEED Gold certification for the new building.

The new high school in Smithville, Ohio, was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. It features a PVC roof system including high-density polyiso cover boards.

The school district was eager to design for lowered heating costs in the brutal Ohio winters through smaller, more efficient mechanical systems. Achieving that energy efficiency required designers to look at the whole building envelope with an eye toward maximizing insulation and minimizing the thermal and vapor conductivity of the building components.
Their roofing solution? Charcoal-colored PVC membrane to capture winter sunlight over polyiso roof insulation and 1/4-inch high-density polyiso cover board from Johns Manville.

Advanced Industrial Roofing Inc., based in nearby Massillon, installed the components over the school’s structures — 12 distinct roofing areas of varying size and slope. With such a complex job, they were grateful for the ease of handling and cutting the high-density polyiso cover board and for the sturdy protective surface it provided during the installation.

Codes and Standards: Dealing With Decision Makers

During the past ten years, in my role as Associate Executive Director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), much of my professional focus has been on monitoring the development of building codes and standards that could impact the products of our members, and the people who use those products. This past decade has been marked by intense debate, focusing on issues such as how the design of buildings can save energy, protect the health of the people who work there, and resist the ravages of increasingly frequent intense and even cataclysmic weather events. It has been an important time for the roofing industry to be engaged.

Given the complexity of the multiple codes and standards that impact roofing, it’s important to know the difference between codes and standards. To clarify, building codes are a set of rules that are frequently adopted into law, and are designed to specify the minimum requirements to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of building occupants. Building standards are set by national organizations such as ASHRAE and determine the performance requirements of the materials used in building construction. While standards are frequently incorporated into codes, that is not always the case.

Each year, ERA has increased its commitment of time and resources to stay abreast of proposed changes in codes and standards. As part of this commitment, I have sat through, and participated in, countless hours of codes and standards meetings and hearings, as well as related meetings with individuals and groups who share ERA’s goals. When I started out, I felt that it was important for members of the roofing industry to stay involved in the code and standard-setting processes. A decade later, I am convinced that participation by the roofing industry is essential if codes and standards are to support the best possible service and products that we can give our customers.

A few insights, based on my experience:

1. Science speaks.

ERA members, because of their close relationship with contractors and consultants, want to make sure that the choice of building materials is left in the hands of the design professional, the consultant, the architect, the engineer, the contractor and, of course, ultimately the building owner or facility manager. When we have codes and standards that do not reflect science-based evidence and/or the best practices within the roofing industry, then those stakeholders may not be able to choose the best product for the job at hand. In some cases, proposed modifications to existing codes or standards are suggested by people from the industry. In those instances, our role is to provide research and evidence to support the proposed change. Either way, science-based testimony usually carries the day. Not always, but without good scientific evidence to support a specific position, the chances of winning are nil to none. It takes time and clear thought to influence the codes and standards process, but without a base of indisputable scientific evidence, it’s hard to get out of the starting gate.

2. Collaboration is essential.

We have always welcomed forging partnerships with like-minded roofing professionals. But there have also been times when we have acted as consulting partners with regulatory agencies. A recent example: when regulatory agencies across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states were charged with improving air quality, they chose to reduce the amount of allowable volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in adhesive sealants. This was a very good idea, and the industry was certainly supportive of the intent, but the way in which many of those states intended to enact those VOC regulations would have crippled the roofing industry. Essentially, the agencies were taking a regulation that was written for the state of California and applying it universally across the New England and Mid-Atlantic States.

So, ERA conducted studies, showing how the climate of those Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states was dissimilar from the climate of California. We also provided technical information on how product would react differently in those different climates, and then we asked for a delayed implementation period to allow the research and development divisions in our companies to develop new products. These new products are appropriate for use in the climates in question and still allow the regulatory agencies to achieve their goals, successfully reducing the amount of the VOCs. Our participation was essential to help the regulatory agencies draw up a realistic timeline that would take into account the needs of the roofing industry.

3. Monitor the decision makers.

It’s important to monitor the discussion surrounding any proposed changes in codes and standards. It’s equally as important to monitor who will be making the final decisions on these issues. Since there are various facets of the roofing industry, code-setting bodies would be wise to ask the local roofing experts for advice on whom to include in their decision-making process. I’ve seen instances where committees have incorporated someone who may technically be from the roofing industry, but that person’s breadth and depth of knowledge is not appropriate for the topic at hand.

I would say we have seen mismatch of decision makers when urban heat island and cool roof issues are being debated. An individual may know a fair amount about climate change, but that doesn’t mean the person necessarily understands the nuances of cool roofing. Additionally, they may not be aware of the breadth of research on that topic and instead rely on dated information from college or grad school without being appropriately briefed on new and emerging research.

4. Prepare for a variety of responses.

We have worked with some regulatory agencies during a collaborative process and they’ve been very grateful for our input. There have been other situations where it seems that the policymakers just want us to rubber stamp their very well-intentioned but ill-conceived draft codes. That’s not something that we are willing to give. These initiatives, these outreach campaigns, take a tremendous amount of time and effort and financial resources, and difficult as it may be, our members feel that they owe it to the industry and their customers to make sure that anything that we’re involved in is done the right way and rooted in science-based evidence. There are no shortcuts in these sometimes very difficult fights.

5. Everyone can contribute.

Every member of the roofing community can be active and engaged and make a contribution to ensuring that codes and standards reflect the true needs of the construction industry and our customers. It’s very valuable to build relationships with state legislators and attend town hall meetings. It is crucial to identify candidates that are pro-business and pro roofing, and support them financially as well as from an educational perspective by sharing information with them about the roofing industry.

This is also critically important: When you are asked to write a letter to a key decision maker, be sure to do it. Recently, as part of a campaign to preserve choice of building products for roofers, I visited a city councilmember’s office. On the wall was an enormous white board where every single constituent member’s concern was tracked, along with a reference to the response. This particular city council member had an 87 percent “close rate,” meaning that 87 percent of the concerns that they had received in a given period had been responded to. My experience has been that municipal and state legislators take constituent outreach very, very seriously. Every letter, every e-mail makes a difference.

6. Gather intelligence for your professional organization.

If there is one takeaway that I want people to get from this article, it is to keep us informed. It is darned near impossible to track everything that happens on a city, county, state and national basis because there is no software that currently tracks these issues before they are formally proposed and published for review. And that is often too late to educate the policy makers. It is critical for the readers of this article to attend their local trade association meetings and become acquainted with the policy makers and the legislators in their area. Equally as important, everyone can become a resource for legislators and policymakers when they have a question about roofing.

I’m looking forward to the next decade of victories for the roofing industry, allowing us to deliver superior roofing systems to a broad range of customers. But this will happen only if key decisions about the roof are made by roofing experts, and not mandated by politicians who are far removed from the design process.

Regular Roof Inspections Help ‘Keep the Door Open’

A roof inspector makes field observations. Photo: Kemper System America Inc.

Regular roof inspections give consultants and contractors a chance to maintain relationships with building owners and managers and create value beyond any immediate repairs.

Commercial roofs should be inspected at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. Roof inspections are also advised after major weather events, though contractors may already be deluged with repair requests. Of course, building managers will be more receptive to discussing regular inspections during such times, even though time is short. A service flyer and readily available letter-of-agreement can help quickly close the deal, and be used after any major job throughout the year to create recurring business. Customers should clearly understand the service offer and any special provisions for emergency repairs or exceptions such as during wider emergencies.

Common Sources of Roof Leaks

  • Cracks in or around flashings and penetrations
  • Breaks in and around gutterways and drains
  • Poor drainage or debris-clogged drainage systems
  • Storm damage, tree branches, ice dams, etc.
  • Incidental damage by other trades during construction or maintenance
  • Excessive foot traffic at rooftop access points and around HVAC units and other rooftop infrastructure
  • Old or deteriorating roofing materials

While roof leaks can be caused in several ways, many common sources of leaks can be prevented with liquid-applied coating and membrane systems that fully adhere to substrates and are both self-terminating and self-flashing. Membrane systems are fully reinforced and create a seamless surface. High-quality systems are designed to withstand ponding water, ice, snow, UV light, as well as most chemicals. Unreinforced roof coatings can be used for repairs or complete restoration of the roof surface.

If only a small area is damaged, a limited repair is best, and usually possible with compatible materials over an existing system in good condition.Check if a warranty is in place, and if possible contact the manufacturer before the repair. Perform any repairs within the guidelines of the warranty.

For wider areas, a roof recovery is often possible right over the existing roofing. If interior leaks from a field area are evident, core samples can verify the condition of the existing roof assembly down to the deck. Built-up roofs (BUR), in particular, are susceptible to sun and temperature cycling. Tiny spider cracks and micropores can develop in the surface, and the layers below can absorb moisture and deteriorate. Water always travels to its lowest point and, if left unchecked, will damage the underlying structure.

On low-slope roofs, areas of ponding water are a prime target for inspections. If the roof is covered by aggregate or overburden, it must be cleared from around the lowest point of any low-lying areas, and other areas of suspected damage. A visual inspection can locate the source of an active leak, but there may be more than one source or a larger issue that may not always be visible. Broader sampling is needed to evaluate the general condition of the roof and the scope of any deterioration.

Quality workmanship and materials help avoid callbacks and ensure long-term relationships. After completing any necessary repairs, a PMMA, polyurethane or elastomeric membrane or coatings system can be installed to extend the service life of an existing roof. Elastomeric-based coatings are generally the best value for straightforward repairs and can be ideal for recovering metal roofs. Roof restoration, in general, can enhance building performance with “Cool Roof” products, especially those with a high solar reflectance index (SRI).

At the end of the day, an ounce of prevention and a prompt response to issues can help building owners avoid expensive headaches. People remember expert advice and quality service, especially in times of need. They also may tell others — which is another way regular inspections can help keep the door open to recurring business.

Improving Disaster Mitigation Strategies

This past January, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, reported that for every dollar spent on mitigation efforts to protect the built environment from the ravages of natural disasters, six dollars could be saved. These findings were part of a follow-up to the widely cited benefit-cost ratio of four to one in a comparable study by NIBS more than a decade ago. For this most recent study, NIBS reviewed the outcomes of 23 years of mitigation grants funded by FEMA, HUD, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

On the same day that the NIBS study was released, FEMA released its draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy to provide a “national approach to investments in mitigation activities and risk management across the United States.” According to the FEMA draft, the final investment strategy will be grounded in three fundamental principles: (1) catalyze private and non-profit sector mitigation investments and innovation; (2) improve collaboration between the federal government and state, local, tribal and territorial governments, respecting local expertise in mitigation investing; and (3) make data- and risk-informed decisions that include lifetime costs and risks. The investment strategy’s overarching goal, according to FEMA, is to improve the coordination and effectiveness of “mitigation investments,” defined as risk management actions taken to avoid, reduce, or transfer risks from natural hazards, including severe weather.

FEMA invited comment on its draft report and will publish its final strategy in November. Given the potential impact of this report on the built environment, and the industries that work to incorporate resilient strategies, the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) submitted feedback to FEMA. ERA represents Johns Manville, Firestone Building Products, and Carlisle SynTec Inc., the three EPDM manufacturing members of the association, whose businesses span the globe. EPDM roofing membranes have been one of the leading commercial roofing materials in the country for the past 40 years, and the companies’ knowledge of the role of roof performance in achieving a building’s resilience is unparalleled.

In our response to FEMA, ERA noted that we appreciate the role that the built environment plays in a comprehensive disaster mitigation strategy. As an organization, ERA has invested time and resources to gather and provide state-of-the-art information about various approaches to creating a resilient built environment. This past year, ERA established a new microsite, EPDMtheresilientroof.com, to provide the roofing industry with a one-stop source for information about resilience. As part of information gathering for this site, ERA staff and members have visited three of the premier research facilities in the country: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. These visits were also devoted to gaining a fuller understanding of the intersection between public and private progress in research and development.

At the outset of our response to FEMA, ERA commended FEMA for its issuance of the draft strategy, and supported all the recommended goals as desirable as risk management strategies to be implemented at the private and public sector levels. However, given ERA’s experience with building performance, we also focused our comments on two of the specific recommended strategies in the published draft.

First, ERA responded to the recommendation that “Federal departments and agencies should ensure up-to-date building standards are used for federal building projects and could incentivize state, local, tribal and territorial governments receiving federal aid for building projects to adopt and enforce, at a minimum, the most current version of model building codes.”
Commenting on this recommendation, ERA pointed out that a review of hurricane and related weather catastrophic events demonstrates that the better the building quality and the better the building codes, the better the performance of the community. While there has been substantial improvement in many states across the country, adoption and compliance pose significant hurdles for overall performance in disaster events. The urgency of this cannot be overstated. Part of this effort to upgrade the building codes and consequently overall resilience must focus on the quality of materials, installation, and inspection of final construction to ensure compliance by local authorities.

The experiences of the roofing industry in its inspection of many disasters over the years have confirmed that a well-installed, inspected, and well-maintained roof is a linchpin of overall building resilience. ERA believes that federal funding to the states to allow for the kind of technical assistance that enhances code quality and state and local compliance programs necessary to achieve physical and community resilience should be provided.
Additionally, ERA responded specifically to the recommendation that “Public sector entities should focus more on rebuilding better as well as rebuilding quickly following damage caused by natural disasters.”
ERA pointed out in its response that this recommendation to achieve rebuilding better buildings quickly following damage caused by natural disasters is among the most important in the report. As FEMA Deputy Director Roy White has pointed out in several presentations focused on resilience, it makes no sense for the agency to fund rebuilding of a destroyed facility to standards that existed when the original building was constructed with the likelihood that it would not be able to withstand another weather event beyond historic norms. Consequently, ERA recommends that FEMA and HUD need to have authority and appropriations to ensure that rebuilding is done with an eye towards future — not historic — climate conditions. This is in recognition that the original basis for many buildings that then are destroyed has been dramatically changed by recently evolving weather patterns. In addition, as the FEMA and NIBS study recently demonstrated, there is a payback to the government of a 6 to 1 ratio for investing in rebuilding to a more resilient standard.

There are many, many elements of the draft strategy that ERA supports; however, we believe the two mentioned above are particularly within our expertise and with which we are very familiar. We look forward to the final mitigation strategy report from FEMA, due to be released in November, and we encourage FEMA to incorporate our recommendations to ensure that the value of investment in resilience be realized to the fullest extent possible.

Easy-to-Use Discs Enable Induction Welding of PVC and TPO Membranes Over EPS Insulations

With induction welding, the membrane is heat bonded to the top of each plate and there are no penetrations in the membrane. Photo OMG

Over the past ten years, North American roofers have begun to adopt induction welding as a fast, simple and secure way to mechanically attach TPO and PVC membranes. The method also helps create a high-performance roof assembly by eliminating fastener penetrations of the membrane.

For most of its history, induction welding was limited to installations over thermoset insulations such as polyiso or over other rigid insulations with a cover board. But now, a deceptively simple and easy-to-use disc enables roofers to use induction welding over expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulations that don’t have cover boards. The result is faster and more affordable insulation installation and lower fatigue for work crews.

The Induction Welding Method in Brief

A roof fastener manufacturer pioneered induction welding attachment as a way for roofers to streamline TPO and PVC membrane installation, while avoiding membrane penetrations, for a more watertight roof assembly.

A roofing technician seals the seam with hot-air welder. Photo: Insulfoam

In a typical mechanically fastened membrane system, roofers secure the membrane with 2-inch to 3-inch diameter plates on the seams held down by screws that pass through the membrane and insulation layers to the underlying deck. With the induction welding method, each plate becomes a fastening point for the membrane, and the membrane is heat bonded to the top of each plate. With this method, crews screw down the insulation layer as usual, then unroll the membrane over the insulation. They then place a stand-up or handheld induction welding tool on the membrane at each plate location. In less than five seconds, the tool heats the plate under the membrane to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, bonding the membrane to the plate. Heating is accomplished via electromagnetic induction between the tool and the plate, rather than via direct application of heat (think of an induction cooktop compared to conventional stove heating coils). Induction welding meets the FM 4470 approval standard and is accepted by most membrane manufacturers.

Induction welding typically requires 25 percent to 50 percent fewer fasteners and plates than typical mechanically fastened installations, as well as fewer seams, resulting in both labor and material savings. As the fasteners are spread across the roof in a grid pattern, the resulting assembly enhances resistance to wind uplift and reduces membrane sheet flutter.

EPS Insulations and Induction Welding

Until now, the induction welding process could not be used with EPS insulations that lacked a cover board, as

EPS insulations can be used in both new construction and roof recovers. Photo: Insulfoam

the 400-degree heated plates caused the insulation to soften and draw back. This resulted in numerous depressions in the roof assembly (at each fastener location), where water could pond.

To enable use of the induction welding process with a broader range of rigid foam insulations, fastener manufacturers have developed a simple solution. For each fastener, crews place a thin disc between the fastener plate and insulation. This separation medium protects the EPS from the high heat of the induction welding process, without interfering with the bond between the membrane and the fastener plate. Manufacturers typically refer to these separators as “induction welding cardboard discs.” While they are paper-based products, calling them “cardboard” understates their performance, as they are densely compressed and have a moisture-resistant coating, so they work well in high-performance roof systems.

Why This Matters

For roofers who prefer using EPS insulations for the products’ thermal performance and ease of installation, the discs allow them also to achieve the benefits of the induction welding process discussed above.

Induction welding cardboard discs enable use of the induction welding attachment process for TPO and PVC membranes over EPS insulation. Photo: Insulfoam

While induction welding has always been possible using EPS insulation products that have standard cover boards, the discs make it possible to induction weld over EPS products with glass facers and fanfold EPS with polymeric facers. Glass-faced EPS products can be used in new applications and recovers while roofers typically use fanfold EPS in roof recovers.

Fanfold EPS bundles, like R-TECH FF and others, are available in standard sizes up to 200 square feet, comprised of 25 panels that are 2 feet by 4 feet each, and come in various thicknesses. A typical two-square bundle weighs less than 11 pounds, so it is easy for one person to carry. EPS fanfold bundles require fewer fasteners per square foot than most roofing insulations and are less expensive than virtually every recover board. The man-hours needed to install fanfold bundles are about 60 percent less than working with individual sheets. Material costs are also lower than wood fiber, perlite, or gypsum board. On large projects, the

Induction welding typically requires fewer fasteners and plates than mechanically fastened applications, resulting in both labor and material savings. Photo: OMG

total savings can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. As with other EPS insulations, the product’s light weight also means less crew fatigue.

As roofers look for ways to create cost-effective, high-quality roof assemblies, new methods provide the opportunity to boost the bottom line by reducing labor and material costs. A simple, affordable disc now enables you to obtain the benefits of both the induction welding method for fastening TPO and PVC membranes and the advantages of EPS insulations.

The Federal Government Is Making Energy-Efficient Roofing Attractive

Small businesses are now able to deduct the full cost of replacing a roof on an existing non-residential building in the year the project was completed instead of depreciating that cost over a 39-year period, as was previously required. Photo: SOPREMA

It is fair to say that Washington, D.C., is far from dull. From the recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act to rolling debates on passing a federal budget, there is a great deal going on at the federal level that impacts the building and roofing industries. In particular, new reforms allow qualifying building owners to expense, or deduct, up to $1 million for the cost of certain building improvements in the year the work is performed, including adding insulation during roof replacement projects to meet or go beyond modern building energy code requirements. The impact can be significant for capital improvement projects. For example, a building owner that expenses the cost of a full roof replacement can reduce the net cost of the entire project by 25 percent to 30 percent.

Commercial Building Roof Replacements

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, includes a provision that reduces the overall cost associated with re-roofing and significantly improves the cost-effectiveness of commercial roof replacements that comply with building energy codes. The vast majority of state and local governments require minimum insulation levels for both new roofs and roof replacements (but not for roof repairs or recovers). These requirements apply to existing buildings because the most economical time to improve a roof’s thermal performance is when the roof membrane is pulled off and replaced. Also, roof replacements are one of the best opportunities for improving energy efficiency in existing buildings, which account for 40 percent of U.S. energy use.

Starting in 2018, the new federal tax law expands the definition of “qualified real property” under the small business expensing provisions of Internal Revenue Code section 179 to include improvements to existing nonresidential roofs. Section 179 allows businesses to fully expense (deduct) up to $1 million (indexed for inflation after 2018) in one year for qualified business expenses, such as equipment purchases and specific building improvements. With this change, small businesses are now able to deduct — in the year completed — the full cost of replacing a roof on an existing non-residential building instead of depreciating that cost over a 39-year period, as was required under prior law. As a mechanism intended to limit the deduction to small businesses, the benefit is phased out for businesses that spend more than $2.5 million (also indexed for inflation) on qualified equipment and real property. This change takes effect in 2018 and, unlike some provisions of the new law, is permanent.

A typical scenario under which a commercial building roof replacement is required to comply with a building energy code is one where an older building with a low-slope roof has R-11 or R-12 insulation in the roof prior to the roof replacement. The R-12 assumption is based on a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) study that evaluated the level of existing insulation in commercial building roofs. For most of the country, current building energy codes require roof replacements to have a minimum level of R-25 or R-30, depending on the climate zone.

The average simple payback period for meeting the energy code is 11.6 years, according to a comprehensive energy modeling study completed in 2009 (“Energy and Environmental Impact Reduction Opportunities for Existing Buildings with Low-Slope Roofs,” produced by Covestro).

The payback period is the amount of time it takes for the energy savings to equal the cost of installing the additional insulation. By allowing a building owner to deduct the full cost of the roof replacement, including the cost for installing additional insulation, the net cost of the entire project is reduced by 25 percent to 30 percent, depending on a tax payer’s tax rate. (The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, but the pass-through rates, which are more relevant to small businesses, are closer to 30 percent, which increases the impact of this new deduction.) More importantly, the deduction shortens the average payback period on the cost of installing additional insulation to 8.1 years, making the investment in energy efficiency even more cost effective for the building owner.

Disaster Relief Reforms and Resilient Buildings

Recent maneuvers by Congressional budget writers provided several positive reforms that will impact the resiliency of buildings in some of the most vulnerable parts of the country.

First, Congress passed improvements to the Federal Cost Share Reform Incentive that increases post-disaster federal cost-share with states from 75 percent to as high as 85 percent on a sliding scale based on whether a state has taken proactive steps to improve disaster preparedness. These steps can include the adoption and enforcement of the most recent building codes. This further incentivizes states to maintain robust and current building codes, including the energy code.

Second, under reforms to the Stafford Act, federal disaster relief funds administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency may be used to replace or restore the function of a facility to industry standards without regard to pre-disaster condition and replace or restore components of the facility not damaged by the disaster where replacement or restoration is required to fully restore the function of a facility. This allows post-disaster funds to be more effectively used to improve the resiliency of damaged buildings and should create opportunities for higher performing roof systems to replace those damaged in disasters.

While the built environment is likely to benefit under recent Congressional action, other policy priorities for the construction and energy efficient industries have been left unresolved. For example, Congress “extended” several clean energy and energy-efficiency related tax provisions, including the Section 179D deduction for commercial building energy efficiency. However, in head-scratching fashion, this and other tax provisions were only extended through December 31, 2017. This means more work is ahead to preserve the policies for the long term and add much needed certainty to the marketplace.

Unpredictable is a polite (and likely understated) description of the policy environment in our nation’s capital. You need not look beyond the recent FY2018 budget deal for an example. Building energy efficiency advocates spent countless hours educating lawmakers on the importance of funding federal research led by the Department of Energy (DOE). Fearing a federal budget that would cripple these vital programs by slashing budgets, advocates saw an 11 percent increase to the DOE’s Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy budget, which leads research on building energy performance. And while history is a poor predictor of future success, recent action impacting buildings demonstrates that policymakers understand the need for strong policies that encourage and lead to more efficient and resilient construction.

Updated NIBS Study Proves Mitigation Is a Sound Investment

Table 1. Benefit-cost ratio by hazard and mitigation measure. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

More than a decade ago, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a nonprofit mandated by Congress to improve building process and facility performance, issued a landmark report which changed the conversation about the value of resilience. The 2005 report, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves, was authored by NIBS’ Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC), which promotes collaboration to achieve resilience objectives among a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Working from data provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the report found that every $1 of natural hazard mitigation funded by the FEMA between 1993 and 2003 saved the American people an average of $4 in future losses. That one to four ratio of investment to returns was widely quoted at the time that the report was published, and has been cited repeatedly during the past decade as interest in resilience grown. This report was among the first to demonstrate that investment in mitigation could deliver significant returns.

During the intervening years, as the frequency and severity of natural disasters has intensified, MMC leadership recognized the need to update and expand the 2005 study. Philip Schneider, AIA, Director of the MMC, explains that the “disaster landscape” has changed since 2005, necessitating a new report. “Our hazard maps, particularly, for earthquake and wind, have had several updates based on more research and better data. Our codes and standards are much improved for creating disaster resistance than they were over ten years ago. Our exposure to disasters, especially, building in disaster-prone areas, has increased substantially. We also have better methods for determining vulnerability to disasters than we had then, and more sophisticated economic analysis tools.’’ In fact, as part of the changed “disaster landscape” that Schneider references, 2017 set unwelcome records related to climate and weather events. According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in early January, the U.S. experienced 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events, matching 2011 for the record number of billion-dollar disasters for an entire calendar year. Together, these events cost the country more than $300 billion dollars, a new annual record for the United States. While this data was released after the publication of the MMC report, it underscores the urgent need to lessen the financial impact of these increasingly frequent disasters.

Figure 1. Total costs and benefits of 23 years of federal mitigation grants. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

After a year-long effort, the MMC released its updated report in January of this year. Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report examined two specific mitigation strategies and found that mitigation is of even greater value now than it was when the first report was released. First, based on updated data on the impact of FEMA grants, the report stated that society now saves $6 for every $1 spent on mitigation. Looking at a second mitigation strategy, the report found a corresponding “benefit-cost” ratio of four to one for spending that exceeded select provisions of the 2015 International Code Council building codes. In summarizing its findings for both strategies, the MMC stated that, “Mitigation represents a sound financial investment.” (For the purposes of this study mitigation and resilience have similar meanings. Schneider says, “For both terms there is no one universal definition; they both are broadly defined with considerable overlap. However, resilience tends to be more community-based, taking into account a wider range of infrastructure, economic, environmental and social issues. Mitigation tends to be more building centric, but still can pertain to a subset or even the same set of wider range issues.”)

The report points out that while mitigation strategies deliver financial rewards, they would also provide other significant benefits. Implementing the two sets of mitigation strategies detailed in the report “would prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in the long term.” Additionally, the report projects that designing new buildings to exceed the model ICC building codes would help fuel economic growth, “resulting in 87,000 new, long-term jobs, and an approximate 1 percent increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.”

Natural Disasters

The report specifically looked at four potentially cataclysmic natural forces: hurricane winds, earthquakes, riverine floods and hurricane surges. Then they looked at five stakeholder groups that would bear the costs and enjoy the benefits of mitigation for the four natural hazards under consideration. These stakeholder groups are:

  1. Developers: corporations that invest in and build new buildings, and usually sell those buildings once they are completed, owning them only for months or a few years
  2. Title holders: people or corporations who own existing buildings, generally buying them from developers or prior owners
  3. Lenders: people or corporations that lend a title holder the money to buy a building
  4. Tenants: people or corporations who occupy the building, whether they own it or not
  5. Community: people, corporations, local government, emergency service providers, and everyone else associated with the building or who does business with the tenant

Figure 2. Total costs and benefits of new design to exceed 2015 I-Code requirements. Courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The study reports that when the cost each group bears to mitigate a loss is subtracted from the positive benefits it enjoys, the “net benefit” is positive in each category. In other words, the value of investing in mitigation is spread broadly across the construction business and the people it serves.

The authors of the report are careful to point out that the cited benefit-cost ratios, or BCRs, are generated from two very specific mitigation strategies: those used by FEMA, and those incorporating designs that exceed provisions of ICC codes. Noting that the results from the 2005 study represented only a single, very narrow set of strategies but were incorrectly used to justify “all types of mitigation strategies,” the authors of the study specifically say that they did not provide an aggregate number in the updated study, but elected to provide BCRs for the two strategies individually. Moving forward, providing an aggregate number is definitely one of their goals: “Once the project team has identified BCRs for a sufficient number of mitigation strategies, it will provide an aggregated number representing the overall benefit of mitigation.” To help achieve that goal, multiple studies are being conducted by the MCC to examine the value of many kinds of natural hazard mitigation at the national level, and more studies are being planned, pending the acquisition of funding.

Focusing on the Roof

What do the results of this study mean for those who focus on the integrity of a roofing system to help create a resilient structure? Schneider underscores the importance of a resilient roof as a component of an overall mitigation strategy. “If the roofing system is compromised in either a windstorm or wildfire, the building or home is subject to total loss.” He also observes that achieving resilience, either in an entire community or in an individual structure, will be a combined effort. “Resilience will be best implemented when states and communities develop and effect resilience plans. Communities, particularly, need to address zoning. Codes and standards organizations need to constantly be updating their documents to address resilience, and architects, engineers, developers and contractors should be building to resilience standards. Manufacturers have their part in providing more resilient products and systems.”

The NIBS report is being praised as an important tool to help in decision-making about investment in resilience, and influential stakeholders are supporting its approach. Executive Director Paul Kovacs of the Toronto-based Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction says, “Findings of the 2005 report, that resilience offers a societal payback of $4 for every $1 invested in mitigation, made an extremely important contribution to the argument that building resilience towards natural hazards is not costly in the mid- to long-term and, in fact, offers a solid Return on Investment. The 4:1 ratio became the most commonly cited metric to show that resilience works, that such things as building codes work. The updated study released yesterday puts a finer point on the metrics and continues to offer overwhelming evidence that building resilience is key to avoiding death, injuries, property damage and disruption.”

Mike DuCharme, Chairman of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), adds support from the manufacturers’ point of view. “We know that our EPDM products can play an essential role in helping to create more resilient roofing systems. With this new report showing the economic advantages of resilience, we can provide the construction industry with materials that can not only enhance the performance of a resilient roofing system, but also provide financial advantages as well.”

The NIBS report concludes by pointing out that, “Not everyone is willing or able to bear the up-front construction costs for more resilient buildings, even if the long-term benefits exceed the up-front costs,” and suggests that some creative incentives might be needed “to align competing interests of different groups.”

FEMA, the source of the statistics for the NIBS report, is addressing this very issue and has just released its Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy at the request of the Department of Homeland Security. This strategy is meant to address the lack of coordination in mitigation investment and is organized to achieve these six outcomes:

  1. Coordination of risk mitigation and management improves between and among public, private, and non-profit sector entities.
  2. The private and nonprofit sectors increase their investments in and innovations related to mitigation.
  3. State, local, tribal and territorial governments are increasingly empowered to lead risk reduction activities and share responsibility and accountability with the federal government.
  4. Public, private, and nonprofit sector entities develop and share more of the data and tools needed to make risk-informed mitigation investments.
  5. Public, private, and nonprofit sector entities improve risk communication, leading to more risk-informed mitigation investments by individuals and communities.
  6. The built environment — whether grey or nature-based infrastructure, and including lifeline infrastructure, buildings, and homes — becomes more resilient

This Draft report is now available for comment and FEMA will continue to research the issue before releasing its final recommendations.

This increasing focus on the issue of resilience has moved the debate forward, beyond where it was just a year ago at this time. The question is no longer whether resilience is needed; the daunting statistics of 2017 confirm that cataclysmic weather events are on the increase and can cause staggering damage to the built environment. The NIBS report provides hard evidence that resilience is an investment in the future that will pay dividends for years to come. The debate now moves forward to the best ways to finance these mitigation efforts, so that those future dividends can be realized.

Research Centers Provide Valuable Information About Roof Performance

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Research Center evaluates construction materials and systems in its state-of-the-art testing laboratories. Photos: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Until early October of this past year, Chester County, South Carolina, was home to a small, single-story house, similar to thousands of houses across the United States, but unique in almost every way.

What made this small structure one of a kind? The house sat inside the large test chamber at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) Research Center, dwarfed by the six-story chamber’s cavernous interior. The house was built, in fact, to be destroyed.

On Oct. 5, the staff of the IBHS Research Center focused the test chamber’s intense destructive wind power, generated by 105 super-sized fans, on the small structure. Prior to the test, the center had digitized the wind record of an actual storm, and the wind speeds produced by the fans were varied accordingly. In the case of the simulated storm in early October, wind speeds were increased in three phases, up to 120 miles an hour. The house experienced significant damage to its walls and interior, and the garage door was ripped off. But the roof, built to IBHS’ recommended standards, held firm.

The IBHS research facility, which opened in 2010 and is funded by property insurers, evaluates various residential and commercial construction materials and systems. The lab is the only lab in the world that can unleash the power of highly realistic windstorms, wind-driven rain, hailstorms and wildfire ember storms on full-scale one- and two-story residential and commercial buildings in a controlled, repeatable fashion.

The mission of IBHS is to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters. And much of its research, like its attack on this small house last October, has focused, at least in part, on the resilience of roofs. As IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman has noted, “The roof is your first line of defense against anything Mother Nature inflicts … and during a bad storm your roof endures fierce pressure from wind, rain, and flying debris.”

Educating the Industry

In May of 2017, the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) launched a microsite to help educate the construction industry about the increasing need for resilience in the built environment, and the contributions that EPDM roofing membrane can make to a

IBHS conducts hail research in the Laboratory Building for Small Tests, where hailstones of various sizes are recreated and propelled against roof samples. Photos: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

resilient system. That effort came in response to the increasing number of extreme weather events. Since last May when ERA first launched its resilience microsite, the pattern of extreme weather has continued unabated, in the form of wildfires throughout the west which were exacerbated by extreme heat, and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma which left devastating floods and wind damage in their wake.

For more than a decade, ERA leadership has supported research about factors that contribute to the resilience of EPDM as a membrane, and how it best functions in various roofing systems. More recently, ERA has invested in site-visits to leading research organizations that generate science-based data about resiliency in building systems, first to Oak Ridge National Laboratories, near Knoxville, Tennessee, and then to the National Research Energy Laboratories (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Given the complementary goals of ERA and IBHS to help support the creation of truly resilient buildings, ERA leadership welcomed the opportunity to visit the South Carolina research facility.

Analyzing Hail Damage

The hail research at IBHS was of special interest to ERA, given ERA’s research that has consistently shown that EPDM membrane offers exceptionally strong resistance against hail damage. Based on field and test data sponsored by ERA, EPDM roof membranes outperform other roof systems in terms of hail protection. In 2007, ERA conducted tests which showed that EPDM roofing membranes did not suffer membrane damage and avoided leaking problems endemic to other roofing surfaces in similar circumstances. Of the 81 targets installed for that research over different surfaces, 76 did not fail when impacted with hail ice balls up to three inches in diameter. Perhaps most importantly, the impact resistance of both field-aged and heat-aged membranes in this test also clearly demonstrated that EPDM retains the bulk of its impact resistance as it ages.

The IBHS Research Center’s super-sized fans can recreate winds to measure their effects on full-scale one- and two-story residential and commercial buildings. Photos: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Using this ERA-generated research as a starting point, ERA leadership travelled to IBHS with specific questions in mind, including: What has IBHS research revealed about the impact of hail on various types of roofing membranes and systems? Does the IBHS research reinforce or contradict ERA’s findings? What are the next questions to be asked about the damage that hail can do, and are resilient systems cost-effective?

Hail research at IBHS is conducted in the Laboratory Building for Small Tests, a compact structure with equipment appropriate to replicate large hailstones and hurl them at roof samples. As part of its research, IBHS has worked with the National Weather Service to assess the geographic locations threatened by hail. Individual storms have long been recognized as creating widespread and expensive destruction, but is hail a threat that is confined to just a few specific geographic areas of the country?

In fact, more than 75 percent of the cities in the United States experience at least one hailstorm a year, and the risk extends across the country to all areas east of the Rockies. Annually, hail losses reach more than 1 billion dollars. The IBHS has identified the factors that contribute to the extent of hailstorm damage, with the impact resistance of roofing materials being one of the most critical factors, along with hailstone size, density and hardness. Likewise, the roof is one of the components most vulnerable to hail. Analysis of property damage resulting from a hailstorm in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2011 found that roof losses accounted for 75 percent of property damage in the area, and more than 90 percent of damage payouts.

In their efforts to replicate the true nature of hail, the staff at IBHS has conducted extensive fieldwork, and travelled widely around the United States to gather actual hailstones immediately after a storm. Over the last five years, the IBHS hail team has collected more than 3,500 hailstones, focusing on their dimensions, mass and compressive stress. The stones range from .04 inches in diameter to well over four inches. In addition, IBHS has conducted three-D scans of more than one hundred stones to further educate themselves about the true nature of hailstones, and how they contribute to the overall damage inflicted by hailstorms.

The research findings of IBHS reinforce or complement those of ERA. IBHS has found that unsupported roofing materials perform poorly and ballasted low-slope roofs perform especially well in hailstorms because they disperse energy. IBHS recommends that builders use systems that have impact resistance approval, including their own fortified standard. While IBHS found that newer roofing membranes perform better than older membranes, ERA studies found that new, heat-aged and field-aged EPDM membranes all offered a high degree of hail resistance, demonstrating that EPDM retains the bulk of its impact resistance as it ages.

Both organizations stress that resilient roofing systems in new and retrofitted construction can make good financial sense. According to Julie Rochman of IBHS, “We are really going to continue focusing on moving our culture from one that is focused on post-disaster response and recovery to pre-disaster investment and loss-mitigation … we’re going to be very focused on getting the roofs right in this country.”

For the members of ERA, “getting the roof right” has long been a dominant focus of their businesses. Now, in the face of increasingly frequent and extreme weather events, getting the roof right means gathering up-to-the-minute research about resilient systems, and putting that research to work to create resilient roofs.