In 2010, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) Research Center launched “Fortified for Existing Homes” to show how retrofitting older homes can bring them up to, or even exceed, the standards of new disaster-resistant home construction. Fortified-improved homes are safer, more durable, and less likely to need major repairs after a disaster strikes.
“If you’re already reroofing, for example, that’s an opportunity to fasten the roof deck with ring-shank nails, apply a secondary moisture barrier over the seams between sheets of sheathing and use high-wind-rated roof covering,” said Timothy Reinhold of the IBHS Research Center. “Adding strapping is practical when the walls are stripped for re-siding, exposing the structural members.”
In 2011, 14 extreme weather events resulted in at least $14 billion in insured property damage across the United States and its territories, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Of that total, more than 800 tornadoes have resulted in more than $11 billion in insured losses, and a single blizzard caused more than $1 billion in insured damage. Statistics like these help clarify the urgency behind the work being done at the IBHS Research Center, which seeks to identify what makes homes and commercial buildings most vulnerable and to develop real-world solutions that can make them safer.
The laboratory at the center is big enough to accommodate a pair of two-story houses and subject them to 140-mph winds generated by 105 fans. (The average wind speed in a tornado is 112 mph.) After the fans were turned on for the first time, the wind blew in the front door of the conventionally built house, adding internal pressure that quickly reduced the structure to rubble. The other house remained standing, thanks to building upgrades specified in the IBHS Fortified for Safer Living construction program. The cost differential between the two demonstration houses was just 3 to 5 percent—a small cost for invaluable peace of mind.
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