Researchers at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) are developing methods to calculate the benefits of investing in more hazard-resistant structures.

Jeremy Gregory, executive director of the CSHub recently presented one metric, the CSHub's Break-Even Hazard Mitigation Percentage (BEMP), to officials in Florida and Georgia—states that can see millions of dollars in property damage due to hurricanes.

Damage from Hurricane Ivan in Pensacola, Fla., 2004. Credit: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA/Wikimedia CommonsDamage from Hurricane Ivan in Pensacola, Fla., 2004. Credit: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA/Wikimedia CommonsAccording to researchers, the BEMP evaluates the cost-effectiveness of mitigation features for a building in a particular location by factoring in the expected damage a conventional building designed to code would endure over its lifetime, and comparing it to a more resilient, enhanced building design. In areas prone to natural disasters, more spending on mitigation is justified—the BEMP helps to identify how much extra spending is recommended.

The southeastern United States was hit hard by weather patterns resulting from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Georgia sustained some $90 million in insured losses, and total claims may continue to rise.

The insured value of residential and commercial properties in Florida's coastal counties now exceeds $13 trillion.

According to previous case studies, it’s been demonstrated that investing in more hazard-resistant residential construction in some locations can be cost-effective, especially in coastal states where the impact of hurricanes can have devastating economic effects.

One case study showed a BEMP of 3.4% in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas. That means that for a $10 million midrise apartment building, $340,000 could be spent on mitigation, and costs would break even over the building life. The highest BEMP calculations are in cities in southeastern Florida, where the values are approximately 8%.

Often, building developers make decisions about materials or building techniques to keep initial costs down. Although the resulting structures are built to code, those codes often fail to factor in the long-term costs or impacts on future owners and communities. One of the goals of this research is widespread adoption of codes and standards that incorporate hazard mitigation into building design.

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