Interactive Tablet App Provides Information to Strengthen Structures Against Natural Disasters

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app gives information to strengthen homes against natural disasters.

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app gives information to strengthen homes against natural disasters.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Munich Re, US launches an interactive tablet app to help builders, contractors, architects and homeowners design and build structures in the face of increasing severe weather events.

FORTIFIED Home On the Go interactive tablet app is available for free download from the iTunes Store.  It walks homeowners, contractors and architects through the steps for strengthening homes. The information includes videos, animations and technical specifications for retrofitting or building single family homes.

Information in the app is taken from IBHS’ FORTIFIED Home program, which provides a set of building standards for homes in high-risk areas, such as in the plains and coastal states.

NIBS States Proposed ABA Resolution to Make Codes and Standards Free Could Reduce Safety

The National Institute of Building Sciences issued an open letter to delegates attending the American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting in August informing of the potential impacts if they vote to support a proposed resolution. The resolution—which advocates that copyrighted codes and standards incorporated by reference in legislation and regulation be made available for free—would alter the way codes and standards are developed in the United States.

In the U.S. construction industry alone, there are hundreds of copyrighted codes and standards that impact everything from seismic requirements and wind loads to water use and life safety. The standards developing organizations (SDOs) that develop these codes and standards have thousands of members, employees and volunteers that participate in the process to incorporate best practices and lessons learned to improve the standards. Each industry, from aeronautics and agricultural to electronics and telecommunications, has a similar structure and industry participation to address their specific needs. Such standards improve safety, drive innovation and improve commerce, both domestically and around the world.

The U.S. Government recognizes the benefit of private industry standards development, as directed by the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA, P.L. 104-113) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119.

If the ABA’s suggested resolution and related advocacy campaign is successful, private-sector-developed standards would be subject to new requirements due to their incorporation by reference in legislation and regulation, and the ability for SDOs to recoup development costs would change considerably.

The development of codes and standards is expensive. Today, the cost is born by those who are ultimately impacted by the standards (whether by participating in the process or purchasing the resulting document). By making such information free online, the ABA resolution would hamper cost recovery through such mechanisms. The result would be that private-sector organizations may no longer be able to invest in the development process, leaving existing standards to remain stagnant (and thus inhibiting innovation) and shifting the responsibility (and expense) of developing future standards to the government.

ABA’s proposed resolution attempts to mitigate any copyright concerns by encouraging government agencies to negotiate licenses with SDOs. However, this change would require agencies to hire staff and implement contracting mechanisms, making it necessary for tax payers to cover the cost of standards development.

The National Institute of Building Sciences—which was established by the U.S. Congress to work with both the public and private sectors to advance building science and the design, construction and operations of buildings to meet national goals of health, safety and welfare—is extremely concerned that the ABA is advocating a one-size-fits-all legislative vehicle that will alter the long-standing tradition of private-sector-developed standards in the United States. The result could reduce safety, increase costs and add a burden to the government and tax-paying citizens.

In lieu of moving forward with the resolution, the Institute suggests the ABA focus on engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the SDO community to help address the changing nature of access to copyrighted materials through the internet and other electronic sources, and, after taking the long-term goals and impacts into consideration, identify a mutually acceptable path forward.

Read the letter.

K’NEXpert Search Challenges Young Builders to Design and Submit Original Models

K’NEX, a construction toy company focused on Building Worlds Kids Love, announces its 16th annual K’NEXpert Search. The nationwide K’NEXpert Search challenges young builders to design and submit a creative, original model made entirely from K’NEX parts that will be judged on criteria, such as originality, creativity and complexity of the model, given the age category of the entrant.

The contest will have four grand prize winners, one from each of the four different age group categories. Age groups include: 5 to 6 years old, 7 to 8 years old, 9 to 11 years old, and 12 to 14 years old. The four imaginative grand prize winners will each receive a prize package valued at approximately $1000.

This year, grand prize winners will receive a K’NEXpert prize package, which includes: $1,000 K’NEX credit code good toward a shopping spree at knex.com, K’NEX T-shirt, $50 birthday surprise, a personal photo gallery on knex.com, 25 percent discount on all K’NEX sets and parts valid throughout 2016, and an invitation to tour the K’NEX corporate headquarters to meet the designers and learn how K’NEX is made. An additional eight finalists will each receive a $250 K’NEX credit code good toward a shopping spree at knex.com and a K’NEX t-shirt.

The K’NEXpert Search runs through Aug. 28, 2015, with winners announced in October. Children can enter using the online registration form found on the K’NEX website. Submissions must include up to three photos of the creation, and a short video or one-page summary describing how the child came up with the idea, how long the design took to build, and how many K’NEX pieces were used. For more information, view the official rules.

A panel of judges comprised of K’NEX employees will select the semi-finalists from each age category; and then the annual K’NEXpert winners will be determined by an online vote. The online voting will begin on Oct. 19, 2015 and continue through Oct. 26, 2015.

The K’NEXpert Search is open to: residents of the U.S. and Canada—except those of Puerto Rico, U.S. territories or possessions, the Province of Quebec, and where prohibited—those who are 5 through 14 years of age as of June 8, 2015, and no purchase is necessary.