White House Summit on Resilience

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An important aspect of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is resiliency. While Congress has been hit or miss on infrastructure issues this Congress, yes on Surface Transportation, not so much on resilience and building sciences, the White House has recently begun to place more emphasis on resiliency.

Highlights of the White House emphasis include a February 2ndWhite House Summit on Earthquake Resilience and the related Executive Order entitled Establishing a Federal Earthquake Risk Management Standard for Federal buildings; the Presidential Proclamation establishing May as Building Safety Month; and this week’s Conference on Resilient Building Codes.

While these efforts will not have the impact of a major new initiative or Congressional approved programs, and comes with no real additional funding, these events do serve to use the White House’s “bully pulpit” to highlight the increasing natural hazards risks and the importance of resilience and buildings codes in mitigating these risk. The development of standards, model building codes, and the local and state adoption as the building code are largely outside of Federal authority. The Federal government does have a role, as funder of research, as coordinator of technology transfer and knowledge dissemination, and as a cheerleader in rallying the many players involved.

The American Society of Civil Engineers is supportive of the White House effort and played a major role this week’s conference, which focused on the critical role codes and standards play in achieving a resilient nation. ASCE joined with other groups representing standard developers, code officials, scientist, insurers, local governments, federal agencies and industries, to share insights, recent successes in developing resilient building codes, and perhaps more challenging, encourage their adoption nationwide. The Society had two representatives at this week’s event: Richard Wright, Ph.D, NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, Chair of the ASCE Committee on Adaption to a Changing Climate, who participated in a panel addressing Climate Change and the Implications for Buildings and James Rossberg, PE, F.SEI, M.ASCE, ASCE’s Managing Director of Engineering Programs, who joined a panel on Resilience in the Codes and Standards Community.  Watch the video of the conference here.

In the absence of Congressional action on such pending issues as the reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the passage the National Mitigation Investment Act, cheerleading from the White House is, at least, trying to push the nation in the right direction.

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