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Designing a Resilient America: Integrating Resilience into Building Design

Wednesday, December 8, 2010  
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Summit Focuses on Coordinating Public/Private Efforts

Professionals from the public and private sectors convened last week in Washington, D.C., to focus on promoting and enhancing the resilience of buildings and infrastructure. On December 1, coinciding with the second day of the event, President Barack Obama proclaimed December Critical Infrastructure Protection Month, showing his commitment to delivering the necessary information, tools and resources to areas where critical infrastructure exists in order to maintain and enhance its security and resilience.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, and organized by the National Institute of Building Sciences, Designing for a Resilient America: A Stakeholder Summit on High Performance Resilient Buildings and Related Infrastructure, held at the American Institute of Architects Headquarters, brought federal agencies, private industry, academia, state and local officials, and professional and trade organizations together to develop recommendations for buildings and related infrastructure.

"The Department of Homeland Security has brought some of the best minds from the public and private sectors together for this Summit,” said Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA, President of the National Institute of Building Sciences. "The U.S. Government invests substantial funding into buildings, which can be targets of terrorist attacks and impacted by natural disasters. We at the Institute are happy to assist DHS in coordinating this event to focus on how to design greater resilience into buildings and related infrastructure.”

The Summit supports the White House's goal of enhancing the resiliency of the nation's building stock and included Brian Kamoie, JD, MPH, Senior Director for Preparedness Policy, a member of the National Security Staff at the White House; Stephen E. Flynn, President of the Center for National Policy; and David Heyman, Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy at DHS. The DHS panel included Christopher Doyle, Director, Infrastructure Protection & Disaster Management Division of the Science and Technology Directorate; Sue Armstrong, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Infrastructure Protection and Rich Marshall, Director, Global Cyber Security Management, National Cyber Security Division, both of the National Protectorate and Programs Directorate; Sandra Knight, Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); and was moderated David J. Kaufman, Director, Office of Policy and Program Analysis, also of FEMA.

Resiliency goes beyond the physical security of a building to address the ability of a building to continue functioning after a disaster or threatening event. When designing buildings, architects and engineers must address federal, state and local requirements in addition to the needs of their clients. To make a resilient, high-performing building, they have to balance numerous concerns, such as safety and security with cost-effectiveness, sustainability, accessibility, functionality, productivity, historic preservation and aesthetics. The challenge, and a major purpose of the Summit, is to address how to integrate resilience while satisfying the other needs of building owners.

Findings from the Summit include:

There is a great need to improve the performance of the nation's built environment.

  • The federal departments and agencies need to work together to effectively address an integrated approach to resiliency. The federal government should enhance its partnerships with the private sector to adopt resiliency in the design, construction and operations of buildings and related infrastructure.
  • A large body of work has already been done on resiliency in both the public and private sectors. There is a need to identify this current state of the art for resiliency and leverage national organizations to help communicate this work to put it into practice.
  • There are already many active committees in both the public and private sectors that are working in the area of resiliency. These committees should be used to further advance the concept of all hazards and high performance to enhance the security and resilience of buildings and related infrastructure.
  • Work is underway to define and measure resiliency and high performance in buildings and related infrastructure. The federal government and private sector organizations should continue this collaboration to further develop resilience metrics and benchmarks to allow an all-hazards approach.
  • Research and development plays a crucial role in developing tools and techniques for improving resiliency. Universities, national laboratories and centers of excellence should be engaged in the advancement of resiliency efforts.
  • The Resilience Summit was an important step in advancing resiliency. Necessary efforts should be made to build the partnerships and activities developed during this initial gathering and similar events should occur in the future to continue the forum of discussion.

DHS and the Institute will compile the proceedings of the Summit into a report, which will include the results of nine working group sessions held during the event. To sign up to receive an emailed copy of the report when it becomes available, contact with "report request" in the subject line.

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