Going Green and Building Strong: Benefits of FORTIFIED

As more Americans are embracing ways to reduce their impact on the environment, they’re also balancing budgets. Having a stronger, safer home that addresses environmental concerns is the best combination, and will help lower energy and repair costs. Let’s focus on one program that delivers these benefits and more. 

The IBHS FORTIFIED programs for new and existing homes are being used by builders and remodelers around the country. FORTIFIED is recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the publication “Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings,” as a way to go green and build strong. 

From earthquake-resistant homes in Memphis and Seattle to those built with hurricanes in mind in coastal areas like Houston, Tampa and Myrtle Beach, homeowners are reaping the benefits of having a FORTIFIED house. Combining environmental and disaster-resistant concepts can be affordable for almost any budget. IBHS regularly partners with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable homes that will perform better during severe weather events. 

We are a nation of homeowners—over two-thirds of our population lives in owner-occupied housing, representing more than 76 million housing units. The median U.S. home is 32 years old, and valued at just under $200,000. Through retrofitting, older homes can become both more energy efficient and disaster resistant. 

Benefits of Retrofitting for Energy and Strength

Each year, natural disasters cause widespread damage, destroy communities, and leave states with mountains of debris that will eventually end up in landfills.  After Hurricane Katrina, more than 44 million cubic yards of building materials and debris were disposed of in landfills, according to federal and state estimates. By making improvements to your home or business when remodeling, you can reduce its environmental impact and save money. Studies by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Institute of Building Sciences found that energy efficiency programs can save consumers between $2 and $3 for every federal dollar spent, while every federal dollar invested in disaster mitigation saves taxpayers approximately $4 on recovery costs. 

IBHS is highlighting ways you can make your property greener and more disaster resistant when retrofitting. Here are a few examples of where improving energy efficiency can also boost the disaster resistance of your property, according to IBHS research: 

  • Replacing single-pane windows with dual-pane, tempered glass windows will reduce heating and cooling costs, and reduce the risk of broken glass allowing flames or embers to enter the property during a wildfire. 

  • Sealing air gaps in walls by applying caulk along joints between sheathing and wall framing elements is another dual benefit improvement. The simple switch to a structural wood adhesive could provide a barrier to air movement – improving energy efficiency – and dramatically increase the structural strength of the wall – adding strength against hurricanes and high winds.  

  • Using foam sealant or a waterproof caulk to seal gaps in walls, around windows and doors, and around all penetrations in the structure, such as utility boxes or pipes, will help maintain the interior temperature and reduce the risk of wind-driven water leaking inside during heavy rains. 

  • When it’s time to replace your roof, choose a roof covering that is wind or hail resistant and has a Class A fire rating, depending upon which risks you face. This will minimize damage and improve the overall performance of your property. 

  • When retrofitting for disaster resistance, it is important to adopt a systems approach that protects the entire building envelope: the roof, walls, and all windows and doors. The FORTIFIED Standard does this and ensures the necessary steps to keep a home’s structural integrity intact the face of hurricane force winds and other perils. By contrast, an à la carte approach (e.g., replacing a large picture window but not other windows and doors) may not reduce damage, instead shifting the vulnerability where the building envelope can be breached.
  • For disaster protection, there is no government-approved rating system, such as the ENERGY STAR label. However, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), has conducted extensive research and identified effective retrofitting measures for the major weather events, all of which are freely available at www.disastersafety.org. All of this research finds its way into FORTIFIED.