Fiatech is an international community
of passionate stakeholders working
together to lead global development
and adoption of innovative practices
and technologies to realize the highest business value throughout the life
cycle of capital assets.

Mitigating Disaster through Design and Construction Conference Preparing Report to Congress

Sponsored by McGraw-Hill Construction and Engineering News Record with partners ASCE and the National Building Museum the "Mitigating Disaster Through Design and Construction Conference - Planning and Building for Resiliency" brought together leaders from the disaster mitigation, construction, planning, insurance fields and building owners to hear presentations and discuss actions that can be taken at the national and local levels to strengthen disaster resiliency in the built environment.

175 leaders from these communities participated in the two day program in Washington, D.C..  Keynote speakers include Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator, Sandra Knight, Ph.D, P.E. form FEMA and Oregon Congressman Early Blumenauer. Five panel sessions cover topics that include:   "Searching for Common Ground:   Creating Common Risk Assessment Methodologies & Standards; "How Planning, Codes & Standards Can Help Mitigation Succeed,""Sustainability & Natural Hazard Mitigation,"  Incentive *& Disincentive Programs that Encourage Risk Mitigation and Resilience," and "Taking the Philosophy of Resilience into Practice."


FIATECH Streamlining Project Manager, Robert Wible, served as opening speaker and moderator for the Planning, Codes & Standards Panel.   Among the members of his panel were Black & Veatch Vice President and former White House Senior Fellow, John Voeller; ICC Vice President and former FEMA Mitigation Director, Michael Armstrong; Spencer Rogers, Coastal Construction & Erosion Specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant Program; Scott Tezak, Program Manager Infrastructure & Risk Assessment, URS Corporation and James Schwab, Manager, APA Hazards Planning Research Center, American Planning Association.

In his presentation at the conference Robert Wible described the need for closer coordination between public and private sector in addressing disaster mitigation and resiliency and other emergency codes and standards issues (including sustainability and energy conservation) in a more cohesive manner to increase the cost benefit to building owners and developers to incorporate resiliency into the building construction and renovation projects.  He also noted advances in the application of information technology and regulatory streamlining to make communities more disaster resilient.  Information on several FIATECH Streamlining efforts including the ICC Guideline for Replicable Buildings and the new Proof of Concept effort to develop a automated plan checking tools based upon the ICC family of codes were provided to attendees.

Presentations during the second day concentrated on building owners and insurance industry perspectives on the benefits of building above code to include greater disaster resiliency in both the siting and the construction of buildings and taking a multi-hazard approach towards disaster mitigation.

Highlights from those presentations included the following statements:

  • "Since 1970, the number of just weather-related natural disasters has grown 7 fold” - “We need to work together to show how we as a nation can use the mass savings we recognize from mitigation to fund needed changes now!”   Congressman Earl Blumenauer, 3rd District Oregon
  •  “We must work together to educate our nation about the true risks we face. A 100 year flood or storm DOESN’T MEAN it can happen only ONCE IN 100 YEARS – It can happen anytime and happen repeatedly!” - Julie Rochman, President Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)
  •  50% of our population lives within 50 miles of our coasts and 30% of our population live in seismic zones” - Joan Woodward, Executive Vice President, Travelers Companies
  •  “By retrofitting our properties to be more disaster resilient, we shift them into becoming a “highly protected risk” and lowered our square foot cost for annual insurance from 10-12cents down to 6 cents per square foot” – Robert Fenza, COO, Liberty Property & Trust
  • “In Katrina jurisdictions which adopted and enforced building codes had 65% less damage than those which had not. “ – Julie Rochman, President, IBHS
  • ”In the 21st Century, competitive advantage will be in countries that are more disaster resilient” – Stephen Flynn – President, Center for National Policy

 At the close of the conference recommendations from a number of participants including FIATECH’s Robert Wible, resulted in ENR working with panelists and speakers in developing a series of recommendations concerning future Federal, state and local government and private sector actions to enhance disaster resiliency throughout the nation.

Recommendations that are gathered will be included in a report being prepared to the U.S. Congress by ENR and McGraw-Hill on the March 2-3 conference. That report is scheduled to be issued in May.