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Opening Keynote Calls Building Industry to Meet Nation’s Resilience Challenges Head On

Tuesday, January 19, 2016  
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The National Institute of Building Sciences kicked off the first day of educational programs Wednesday, January 13, at Building Innovation 2016: The Institute’s Fourth Annual Conference and Expo with a breakfast keynoted by Judge Alice C. Hill (Retired), Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Resilience Policy on the White House National Security Council.

“This group has a huge role to play in making sure the United States achieves resilience,” said Judge Hill as she addressed the audience of building industry professionals.

During her presentation, Judge Hill talked about the importance of retrofitting existing buildings, updating the nation’s infrastructure and adopting and enforcing the latest building codes, as well as the need to address the impact of climate change. 

“We should be looking at what’s going to be happening in 50 years,” said Judge Hill. “We must take into account climate change.”

Quoting from the Third National Climate Assessment, a consensus document developed by more than 300 scientists, Hill talked about how ‘climate change…has moved firmly into the present.’ The Assessment pinpoints the impacts of climate change on a regional basis. For the Washington, D.C. area, where Building Innovation 2016 was held, that would include sea level rise, increased storm surge, more extremely hot days in a row, higher temperatures overall and increases in extreme precipitation. Since some of the sewers in the D.C. area date back to the Civil War, Hill questioned whether the existing infrastructure would be able to handle all that water.

With records being set at greater frequency—last summer was the hottest summer in the world—Judge Hill challenged the audience to change the way they design and build. “We can’t use the historical data, which we’ve historically done…Those historical norms are no longer what we can expect.”

Hill asked the audience how many of them were designing their projects with 50-year lifespans to be resilient; urged them to advise owners to incorporate resilience into their buildings; and emphasized the need to build it right the first time so that communities don’t have to build back post-disaster.

“You have the power to change the course of our nation’s history,” said Judge Hill. “The decisions you make now have an impact for a very long time. I urge you to think about incorporating resilience every single day. When it comes to climate change, there is such a thing as being too late.”

With the theme, “Achieving a Resilient Future,” Building Innovation 2016 brought together professionals from across the building industry to tackle this urgent issue.

Stay tuned for the January Building Sciences newsletter, which will include a Conference Wrap-up edition. Not a subscriber? Sign up now.

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