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Ref: Insurance industry group announces new research initiative for damage to property from natural disasters

PR Newswire


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New Research Center Targets Natural Disaster Property Losses




Insurers' Group Aims to Strengthen Construction of Homes and Businesses



TAMPA, Fla., April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new state-of-the-art
applied research facility will use science and technology to expand
capabilities to create more durable homes and businesses. The facility will
be dedicated to reducing the human, financial and societal costs of natural
disasters and other threats to property from coast to coast.



The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an insurance
industry-supported nonprofit engineering and communications group,
announced today that it will construct the Insurance Center for Building
Safety Research with funds from its insurer and reinsurer members.



The Center will feature full-scale testing of buildings and
construction components. A two-track research program will allow IBHS to
address catastrophic issues, such as high winds and wind-driven water
intrusion, earthquakes and hail, as well as more isolated, but expensive,
maintenance-related issues like plumbing system failure and interior fires.
The findings will be used in aggressive consumer education and advocacy
campaigns, and to supply vital data to developing public policies in areas
such as building codes and land use.



"Unfortunately, more people and property are in harm's way in this
country than ever before," said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO.
"Mother Nature reminds us daily that we have to find ways to better protect
the places where we live and work -- and we will have greatly increased
capacity and capability to do that through the new insurance industry
research Center."



She added that more durable construction is also environmentally
friendly, and that even the "greenest" home could quickly become landfill
if it is vulnerable to natural elements. "Our long-term goal is to help
this country put a higher value on resilient, sustainable communities."



IBHS has been a leader in using building science to develop real-world
approaches to reduce the risks posed by natural disasters and other perils.
Events in recent years, including tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires, have
given IBHS researchers opportunities for field work, during which they have
learned much about how to better engineer structures against certain risks.
There remain, however, knowledge gaps that can be filled only with testing
in controlled environments, which the Center will provide.



The Center's first priority will be to examine roofing performance
issues. IBHS estimates that damage to the roofing system is present in as
much as 95 percent of properties that suffer wind and water-related losses.
The result is repair or replacement of millions of roofs every year.



"Roof failures and the damage done by water that can get in afterward
can be a major headache and huge expense," said Dr. Timothy Reinhold, IBHS
vice president and director of engineering, who will lead the Center's
research team. "But with more realistic test methods and better knowledge
about variables such as installation differences and how aging affects the
performance of roof systems, we could save lots of money and aggravation."



Reinhold noted that "property owners should quickly reap the benefits
of this research, since roofs are the most frequently replaced component of
buildings." He added that existing research shows that each dollar spent on
disaster mitigation saves society an average of four dollars.



The Center will also enable IBHS staff to further leverage resources
through ongoing partnerships with existing facilities and other
researchers, according to Reinhold. Examples of this are already underway
in the areas of earthquake, wildfire and wind research. "IBHS is working
with the University of Colorado and Pennsylvania State University on
wildfire risk reduction research and risk modeling that is nearing
completion," he said. "And we are supporting earthquake research being done
by the California Institute of Technology and University of California, Los
Angeles." He added that IBHS is also working with the University of
Florida, Florida International University and private laboratories on
wind-driven water intrusion research.



Reinhold said the Center "will also foster a broader understanding of
what can be accomplished with sustainable construction by providing
training to builders, building officials, architects, engineers, insurance
personnel and others with a professional interest in the field."



IBHS is currently evaluating several potential sites for the Center,
which it anticipates will require about a 100-acre parcel. Selection
criteria include a mild climate to allow for year-round research activities
as well as access to significant amounts of electricity through a plant or
substation. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year.



Supporting IBHS member companies and insurance organizations currently
include American Family Insurance, American Modern Insurance Group, Amica
Mutual Insurance Company, Auto Club Insurance Association, Auto-Owners
Insurance Group, Bankers Insurance Group, Benfield, COUNTRY Financial, Farm
Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Farmers Insurance Group, The Hartford
Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, HomeWise Insurance Company,
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, MetLife Auto & Home, Munich Reinsurance
America, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Nationwide
Insurance, OneBeacon Insurance Group, Property Casualty Insurers
Association of America, RenaissanceRe Holdings, South Carolina Farm Bureau
Mutual Insurance Company, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Swiss Re
America, Travelers and USAA.



"Powerful, destructive natural disasters do more than destroy property
-- they devastate lives," said Rod Matthews, IBHS Board Chairman and Vice
President-Underwriting at State Farm. "Disaster preparedness is a national
challenge that calls for a concerted effort based on objective research and
real-world solutions. This research Center will help us find ways to not
only build stronger, safer homes and businesses but also to save lives and
prevent losses."



"Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and fires are inevitable,
and it's our job to help people restore their lives to order after they
happen," said Paul N. Hopkins, CEO of Farmers Group, Inc. "However,
research by IBHS has shown that good building design can make a difference
in the impact of these events. By creating this one-of-a-kind research
facility, insurers are helping identify the best ways to reduce loss of
life, injury, and disruption for our customers and communities in the
future."



IBHS (http://www.DisasterSafety.org) is a nonprofit, scientific and
educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The
organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural
disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by
conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and
preparation practices.

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