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Dell Technologies Named Exclusive Technology Day Sponsor for Building Innovation 2020

Posted By Christine Cube,, Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Dell Technologies will sponsor Technology Day (April 8), the third official day of the Building Innovation 2020 Conference and Expo.

As the exclusive Technology Day sponsor, Dell will showcase the latest in virtual reality, gaming consoles, and solutions to the technological challenges in the built environment.

In addition to supporting the Building Innovation conference, Dell also has signed on to offer members of the National Institute of Building Sciences exclusive savings on Dell products. Discounts can be found at

Among the promotions, Dell is offering a coupon to NIBS members, allowing an extra 5% off all Dell desktops, notebooks, servers, electronics, and accessories. This is in addition to current promotions, so members can use more than one coupon for even greater savings.

BI2020 is scheduled for April 6-9. It’s a premiere event for the built environment that brings together innovators, government leaders, public and private sector representatives, and officials from building and construction.

The event takes place at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel. Register today to attend.

Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.


Tags:  BI2020  Conferences 

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NIBS and GSA Kick Off Third Year of Federal Building Post Occupancy Evaluations

Posted By Stephanie Stubbs, Program Director, Facility Lifecycle Management, NIBS, Monday, February 10, 2020
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2020

Pictured, from left: GSA Lead Program Specialist for Facilities Operations Mike Malane, Office of Facilities Management; GSA Architect Sean Garrett, Office of Design and Construction; Architect David Asofsky, Delta Engineers, Architects, and Landscape Surveyors; Team Leader Earle Kennett; Mechanical Engineer Ken Schram, RG Vanderweil Engineers; Lighting Engineer Nancy Clanton, Clanton & Associates; and Building Enclosure Engineer Matt Farmer, Wiss Janney Elstner. (Photo by Nancy Clanton)

This week, the NIBS and General Services Administration (GSA) Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) team performed their first site visit for 2020 to the Marcelino Serna Land Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas.

NIBS staff, its subject matter experts, and GSA leadership will blend their multidisciplinary expertise to analyze conditions at 6 additional federal buildings this year. The goal is to create a Lessons Learned summary evaluation for GSA to use for federal buildings going forward.

Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.

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“I’d Like to Attend Building Innovation 2020. Will I Earn AIA and ICC Credits?” The Answer is Yes!

Posted By Christine Cube, Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A big part of today’s meetings and conventions is the opportunity to earn continuing education credits, while learning more about the industry.

That’s why the National Institute of Building Sciences has partnered with the American Institute of Architects and International Code Council to make easier some of the credit-earning potential.

Attendees at the Building Innovation 2020 Conference and Expo in April can earn up to 19 AIA-approved continuing education system/health safety welfare credits, over 4 days, for full-conference attendance. If you’re an engineer, you know that many licensing bodies accept AIA credits as part of various continuing education programs.

Can’t attend the entire conference? Here’s more on the breakdown of AIA CES/HSW credits: Each day of the conference focuses on a specific theme – resilience, technology, or workforce. Every day holds a set number of CES/HSW credits that can be earned.

Additionally, we’re hammering out details now with ICC about CEU credits and how they’ll be allotted for Building Innovation attendance. Stay tuned for more information.

BI2020 is scheduled for April 6-9. It’s a premiere event for the built environment that brings together innovators, government leaders, public and private sector representatives, and officials from building and construction.

Building Innovation takes place at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel. Register today to attend.

Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.

Tags:  BI2020  conferences 

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Building Synergy in Disaster Recovery

Posted By Keith Porter, Vice Chair, Multihazard Mitigation Council, Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Porter TX GLO Conference
Figure 1. 2019 National Disaster Recovery Conference. Left to right: Keith Porter (author), Donald Leifheit Jr (FEMA), Michael Ku (FEMA), Gabriel Maser (ICC), and Jim Olk (Cities of Lucas, Texas, and Garland, Texas).

Why does synergy matter in disaster recovery, and who needs to be involved?

A panel recently addressed this, during a meeting organized by the International Code Council for a conference of the Texas General Land Office in Austin, Texas. The discussion focused on (1) building-code development (including applied research to quantify the value of modern building codes), (2) federal financial support for building-code adoption and enforcement, and (3) the role of state and local governments in actually adopting and enforcing codes.

Think of these aspects as three legs of a stool to promote disaster resilience, reduce future losses, and thereby speed recovery.

I presented the contribution of applied research to disaster recovery.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves shows through benefit-cost analysis that resilience is affordable, adding perhaps 1% to the construction cost of a new building to provide freeboard. (The first floor of a new code-compliant building commonly has 1 to 2 feet of elevation above the base flood elevation, that is, the flooding level with 1% exceedance probability in a year.)

Code compliance saves more than it costs, on average $6 for flood compliance per $1 added cost. It can be cost effective to build even higher: 5 feet of freeboard saves an additional $5 per $1 of added construction cost.

To recover from disasters quickly, probably the best approach is to avoiding losses in the first place.

The International Code Council offered more evidence that building codes promote resilient communities.  ICC’s Gabriel Maser showed how the Florida Building Code reduced windstorm losses by 72%, and how I-Codes in general reduced damage from hail by 10-20% in Missouri and reduced insurance by 90% after Hurricane Harvey.

But enforcement is critical: Maser argued that lax enforcement may have added $16 billion to losses in Dade County after Hurricane Andrew. (Lax enforcement is believed to greatly have aggravated losses outside of Anchorage, Alaska, after an earthquake there on November 30, 2018.) Evidence from Moore, Oklahoma shows that strong codes do not appear to affect sales price or volume, and can increase resale value: 6% for hurricane shutters, 4% for tornado shelters.

But information alone about the cost effectiveness on code adoption and enforcement does little for disaster recovery. Local communities must be able to afford to adopt and enforce the code.

FEMA representatives Donald Leifheit and Michael Ku explained that the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act of 2018 allows the federal government to provide pre- and post-disaster assistance to state and local governments to adopt and enforce the two most recent editions of I-codes, including 6 months of wages for new building inspectors.

So plenty of evidence shows that modern codes save lives and money and promote resilience, in recognition of which FEMA is offering incentives for local communities to adopt and enforce modern codes.

What about the third leg of the resilience stool: the state and local governments that adopt codes and inspect buildings? Jim Olk, mayor of Lucas, Texas and chief building official of Garland, Texas pointed out that disasters start and end locally.

Texas, like a few other home-rule states, leaves code adoption to local governments, and in many of those communities, people distrust government and regulation, and resent the costs associated with enforcement. That distrust and resentment allows builders to successfully argue against code adoption and enforcement. The third leg often is weak. 

Tags:  mitigation  mitigation saves  resilience 

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Flood Economics of Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves

Posted By Keith Porter, Vice Chair, Multihazard Mitigation Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mitigation Saves

When it comes to protecting your home against flood, mitigation saves homeowners time and money.

This was the crux of a recent panel presentation that I participated in, during the Strengthening Coastal Counties Resilience Workshop in South Padre Island, Texas. The workshop was arranged by the National Association of Counties (NACo), with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as part of a project to help counties think through how to improve resilience.

Keith PorterI represented the Multihazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences in the panel to a workshop of officials of Gulf and Atlantic coastal counties.

I talked about the economics of flood mitigation, drawing lessons from Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves.

The Mitigation Saves study shows that people can afford to build freeboard (a requirement in modern building codes that wasn’t there in 1990) into new buildings in riverine floodplains. It also shows that more freeboard costs more up front, but ultimately lowers the long-term cost of ownership.

How do we know that? Mitigation Saves demonstrates that building a foot of freeboard saves an average of $6 per additional $1 of construction cost. The study also shows that building 5 feet of freeboard rather than 1 foot saves another $5 in avoided future losses per $1 of added construction cost. The initial freeboard costs on the order of $3 per square foot of floorplan, but saves $18 per square foot—which lowers the long-term cost of ownership by $15 per square foot. Adding another 4 feet adds about the same cost and saves about $15 per square foot, which saves another $12 per square foot.

Why would these benefit-cost ratios matter to the county officials NACo assembled? One reason is that people tend to talk to local officials about construction costs solely in terms of first costs—the portion of the ownership cost that the initial buyers pay up front—forgetting that ownership costs don’t end when the developer hands you the front door keys.

If a new house has a poor roof, no freeboard, or bad insulation, the low initial cost represents a false economy. Low first costs can be very expensive. It helps county officials to think about code adoption and enforcement in terms of long-term ownership cost, rather than just first costs.

The panel also included FEMA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator Angela Gladwell and Moody’s Investor Services Vice President Adebola Kushimo. Gladwell presented FEMA’s newly released National Mitigation Investment Strategy. Kushimo explained how a county’s resilience can affect its credit rating.

NIBS soon will release the 2019 edition of Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves. NIBS and MMC hope to continue to expand the study. For example, we would like to address the benefits and costs of business continuity planning and disaster recovery (BCP/DR), direct action by government entities such as hurricane warnings and flood-control measures, and restoring disaster-damaged buildings and lifelines to a higher performance level than they had before the disaster (called building back better). We also hope to use the study to inform the construction of new financial mechanisms that incentivize owners to do mitigation by having lenders, insurers, and governments share some of the co-benefits of mitigation back to the owner, potentially reducing the owner’s total cost of ownership below that of less-resilient design.

For more information, visit 

Tags:  flood  mitigation  mitigation saves 

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NIBS Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves study discussed at ICC Annual Meeting

Posted By Keith Porter, Multihazard Mitigation Council Vice Chair, Monday, November 18, 2019

The International Code Council recently held its 2019 annual conference in Las Vegas.

As part of ICC’s government relations forum during a panel called Up-to-Date Building Codes Provide Significant Mitigation Savings, I discussed aspects of the Multihazard Mitigation Council’s study Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves. The panel also included Jeff Czajkowski, of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and Kevin Simmons, of Austin College, who spoke about related topics.

The 2019 edition of Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves updates the 2005 benefit-cost analysis of the same name, but addresses a much broader suite of mitigation measures: adopting up-to-date codes, exceeding codes, private-sector building retrofit, retrofitting transportation and utility infrastructure, and public-sector retrofit. The study addressed aspects of up-to-date codes having to do with greater flood freeboard relative to 1990-era codes, increases in seismic strength and stiffness, defensible space and fire-resistive materials, and various strength and detailing requirements for wind.

The panel agreed that up-to-date codes are affordable. For example, new buildings are 50% stronger and stiffer in resisting seismic forces than a generation ago for only about 1% greater construction cost, and for an even smaller percentage of first price. The reason is that the structural materials associated with lateral strength account for only about 2% of the construction cost of a new building, which itself in some cases only represents one-third of first price including land.

The public prefers and is willing to pay for resilient buildings: I cited a scholarly public-opinion survey performed for the USGS’s HayWired scenario. Simmons cited the example of Moore, Oklahoma’s enhanced wind provisions and the fact that the enhanced provisions had no effect on Moore’s housing market.

One can dispense with the objection that private-sector owners commonly decline to exceed code in new buildings by recognizing that building owners have supported mandatory, across-the-board code enhancements that keep the playing field level, whereas voluntary enhancement disadvantages the owner who opts for it relative to neighbors who do not.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves includes a wide variety of benefit categories in the numerator of the benefit-cost ratio: reductions in property damage, business interruption, additional living expenses, deaths, injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, the overhead and profit portions of insurance premiums, and some environmental benefits. The study also quantified new jobs and savings to the federal treasury, although to avoid double-counting, these benefits are not included in the numerator of the benefit-cost ratio.

I acknowledged the unfulfilled desire to include other intangibles: pets, peace of mind, memorabilia, culture, and protection of disadvantaged populations.

CFIRE member Tim Ryan pointed out, to general agreement, that code enhancements are fairly useless without the political will to enforce codes, which he argued shows no sign of growth.

One way to measure the value of a building under varying levels of resilience is to estimate the cost of ownership: the first cost, which increases with design requirements such as seismic strength, plus future repair costs, which generally decrease with increasing design requirements. The sum is the total cost of ownership. If one plots the first cost, future loss, and total cost of ownership as curves on an x-y chart where x measures strength (or other measure of design requirements), the total cost of ownership tends to have a U shape, with a lowest y-value (called a local minimum) indicating what one can call an optimal design level.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves shows that in many places, for many perils, current code is not at that optimal point, but rather produces a false economy in terms of lower first cost but higher total cost of ownership.

The report shows that the last 30 years of code development costs America about $1 billion per year in higher first cost, but saves society $13 billion in the long run for every year of new construction. But an optimal, future code could save America an additional $16 billion for every year of new construction, for an added first cost of $4 billion.

The panel generally agreed that society benefits when it adopts and enforces up-to-date codes, and that engineers, economists, building officials, code writers, insurance commissioners, and other building professionals all have an interest and a role to play in promoting up-to-date codes and future code enhancements.

The National Institute of Building Sciences soon will release the 2019 edition of Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves. NIBS and MMC hope to continue to expand the study. For example, we would like to address the benefits and costs of business continuity planning and disaster recovery (BCP/DR), direct action by government entities such as hurricane warnings and flood-control measures, and restoring disaster-damaged buildings and lifelines to a higher performance level than they had before the disaster (called building back better). We also hope to use the study to inform the construction of new financial mechanisms that incentivize owners to do mitigation by having lenders, insurers, and governments share some of the co-benefits of mitigation back to the owner, potentially reducing the owner’s total cost of ownership below that of less-resilient design.

For the latest edition of Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves, see

Tags:  Conferences  mitigation  mitigation saves 

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BIM: Developing a national standard and road map of what’s ahead

Posted By Christine Cube, Monday, November 4, 2019

BIM Expo 2019

Computer scientist Andrew Tanenbaum has said: “The good thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.”

For better or worse, Tanenbaum’s quote ties into a project of the National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance (bSa), which aims to update the National Building Information Modeling (BIM) Standard for the built environment.

Cdossick“The problem in the U.S. is that we have many standards now,” says Carrie Sturts Dossick, P.E., chair of the bSa NBIMS Planning Committee. “States, local, federal governments, healthcare, private owners – all these entities are working on standards. We need to reconcile these different standards.”

So bSa has a goal: Create a collection of standards and guidelines that support the implementation of BIM in planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings and infrastructure in the U.S. and beyond.

This was the basis of a recent presentation at BIM Expo 2019 in Hanover, Germany, by Dossick, P.D. Koon Professor of Construction Management and Associate Dean for Research with the College of Built Environments for the University of Washington. Dossick spoke specifically about the planning committee formation, the move to a collection of modules that contain standards and guidelines, and a draft road map of where things are headed.

BIM Expo provides a platform for different perspectives on digitization in the construction industry. It brings together national and international experts to discuss application and project examples, perspectives of market leaders and medium-sized companies, and insights from research and science.

There were many important takeaways from the conference in Germany, Dossick said.

“I learned this year how much work goes into setting up the structure and process of developing a national standard,” she said. “The move to modules also is important because we’ve been thinking of it as a single standard, but BIM is very complex and there are multiple uses of BIM.”

Modules that have been identified as priorities include core BIM requirements, BIM use definitions, BIM project execution planning, modeling requirements, an update to the COBie exchange, standards for IE representations, and an agile web-based publication format.

Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.

Tags:  BIM  Conferences 

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Always be prepared: October is National Fire Prevention Month.

Posted By Christine Cube, Monday, October 21, 2019

Fire Prevention Month

A year ago – just last November – California met its deadly Camp Fire. It was the most destructive wildfire in California history, claiming 86 lives and covering an area of more than 150,000 acres.

It’s more important than ever that we be ready for anything.

October is National Fire Prevention month. The goal of this campaign – and particularly Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12) – is to increase fire safety awareness and help families prepare for an emergency. 

If you visit the National Fire Protection Association site, you’ll find a ton of information regarding fire safety, lesson plans, and videos. This month’s campaign theme: “Not every hero wears a cape. Practice and plan your escape.”

2018 Was a Hard Year for Fires

According to the NFPA Journal, 29 catastrophic multiple-death fires and explosions last year resulted in 215 fatalities.

This was topped by the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, a wildland/urban interface fire that broke out in Northern California’s Butte County. In addition to the lives lost, the fire was responsible for injuring 12, which included 5 firefighters. Property damage was estimated at more than $8 billion, wrote author Stephen Badger for the NFPA magazine.

Badger broke down the use of smoke alarms, which can reduce the risk of death in home fires. The association recommends monthly testing of home smoke alarms.

“The most effective arrangement is interconnected, multiple-station smoke alarms supplied by hardwired AC power with a battery backup,” Badger says. “These should be located outside each sleeping area, on each level, and in each bedroom. Homeowners should routinely test smoke alarms according to manufacturers’ recommendations.”

How You and Your Family Can Stay Safe

There are some fairly simple steps that homeowners can take to stay ahead of a fire emergency.

These include:

  • Never leave any fire unattended. Whether it’s burning in your fireplace at home, a campfire by your tent, or a candle sitting next to you, always keep a close eye on what’s happening.
  • Extinguish things properly. If you need to walk away from a campfire or candle, make sure it’s extinguished properly. The same goes for cigarettes.
  • If you see something, say something. This seems pretty obvious, but if you see a fire that’s unattended or burning out of control, call 911 or reach out to your fire department.
  • Handle everything with care. Double check local ordinances before burning yard waste, make sure everything is properly put out.
  • Place an alarm on every level of your home.
  • Test alarms and change batteries for existing smoke alarms (carbon monoxide is the No. 1 cause of accidental death).
  • Consider upgrading to 10-year sealed battery alarm. (These alarms are powered by long-life lithium batteries for 10 years.)
  • Stock up on fire prevention supplies, like extinguishers.
  • Look into insurance. Fire protection may not be a bad idea. Look into options that are available to you.

The Hard Truth

Mitigation measures help governments, building owners, developers, tenants and others reduce the impacts of fires.

This is especially critical because approximately 59 million people are exposed to wildfires in the U.S.

In fact, 2.5 million homes have been built in the wildland-urban interface and are so vulnerable to fire that it would be cost effective to retrofit them to comply with the 2018 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code.

These homes, plus nearby businesses and contents, are valued at approximately $1.3 trillion. The cost to retrofit properties these could run anywhere from $4,000 to $80,000.

The mix is uncertain, but even taking a conservatively high estimate of $72,000 cost to make the exterior cladding of a property fire resistant, replace windows with double-paned glass, and clear a defensible space of excess fuel, the average benefit of $130,000 still would exceed the cost.

Using a lower, but still realistic, average retrofit cost of $16,000, the benefit is still $430 billion at a cost of $53 billion, meaning $8 of avoided future losses per $1 invested.

When you strengthen one building, the benefits extend beyond the property line.


Wildfire mitigation more than pays for itself. Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.

Tags:  mitigation  mitigation saves  wildfires 

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October’s #CampusSustainabilityMonth is a celebration that needs to happen every month

Posted By Christine Cube, Thursday, October 10, 2019

Campus Sustainability

It’s Campus Sustainability Month.

Throughout October, there are a host of events tied to greener solutions and sustainability of our nation’s college campuses.

Events are aimed at engaging and inspiring “incoming students and other campus stakeholders to become sustainability change agents,” says The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

We’re talking tree plantings, sustainability pledge drives, nature walks, zero-energy concerts, green sporting events, letter-writing campaigns, and sustainability competitions.

If you follow the #CampusSustainabilityMonth conversation on social, you’ll see many campuses proudly promoting their work. They include:

There’s plenty of time to participate. Here are some ideas:

Project Green Challenge (through Oct. 30). Led by Turning Green, PGC engages high school through grad school students for 30 days of environmentally-themed challenges. Since its launch in 2011, PGC has involved more than 40,000 students on 3,500 campuses. Each challenge arrives by email at 6am Pacific; challenges are live for 24 hours.

The People’s Ecochallenge (through Oct. 23). Participants select or create actions that align with individual values and make a 21-day environmental commitment to complete actions. For every completed action, participants earn points and create impact. More than 100 actions within 9 categories encourage participants to act.

Global Climate Change Week (Oct. 14-20). GCCW aims to encourage academic communities in all disciplines to engage with each other and policy makers on climate change and its solutions. Activities are aimed at raising awareness and inspiring change.

Share your successes on social media, using the hashtag #CampusSustainabilityMonth.

Want to learn more? Visit Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.

Tags:  sustainability 

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Straight Talk: Women Executives Discuss Issues Within the Built Environment

Posted By Christine Cube, Monday, October 7, 2019

WEB Panel
Photo: From left, Lakisha A. Woods, President & CEO of the National Institute of Building Sciences; Paula Glover, CEO of American Association of Blacks in Energy; Andrea Rutledge, President & CEO of the Construction Management Association of America, and Dawn Sweeney, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association

It’s not every day that you gather a room full of female executives to talk about tough issues like diversity, inclusion, and management in the nonprofit built environment.

But that’s exactly what happened Friday, Oct. 4, when the National Institute of Building Sciences hosted the first Women Executives in Building Summit.

“It starts with us,” said Lakisha A. Woods, President and CEO of NIBS. “We have to talk with each other. Fifty-one percent of this country is female and over 90% of the building industry is male – there are not enough of us at this table.”

Woods was joined by a strong panel of CEOs: Paula Glover, of the American Association of Blacks in Energy; Andrea Rutledge, with the Construction Management Association of America; and Dawn Sweeney, of the National Restaurant Association. The event was held at the restaurant association headquarters. 

“Within an industry and even cross-industry, we don’t work together even though we have the exact same problem,” said AABE’s Glover.

Some of the issues discussed include balancing work and family, reaching career counselors and youth in high school and college to recruit into our industry, and whether companies are doing a good job taking care of women entering the workforce.

Building a Lasting Legacy

When Sweeney took over the helm of the National Restaurant Association in 2007, she was the organization’s first female president.

At the end of 2019, she plans to retire and says she’s proud to leave the group in “far more effective hands.”

Sweeney is talking very specifically about the association’s culture and environment.

Sweeney maintains that while restaurants are a “wonderfully diverse industry,” it’s taken some time for board representation of the national organization to catch up.

Today, 40 percent of the restaurant association’s board is made up of people of color, and 50 percent of the board are women.

Moving the Built Industry Forward

When Woods began leading NIBS in December 2018, she said the most attractive part of the job was its opportunity.

We are conveners, so we bring together the industry and find solutions to common problems.

“This is the path forward,” Woods said. “I love that our members impact where we live, work, and play. It’s not just talking about what the challenges are, but you also have to talk about solutions.”

One thing that has worked for the American Association of Blacks in Energy is a “signing day” for young people going into trades. 

“We formalize a signing day,” Glover said. “High school students [need] to feel value no matter what their path is. … Storytelling also is very important. Young people aspire to what they see.”

For women in construction, it’s imperative to “send the elevator back down,” said CMAA’s Rutledge.

“It is our obligation to send the elevator back down for the next person,” she said. “You have to make a path.”

In addition to nonprofit leaders, NIBS will open the 2020 summit to female business owners and C-suite leaders across the built environment. Follow us on social @bldgsciences and Facebook for the latest on updates. 

Tags:  Conferences 

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