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JOHN D. WAGNER: Meet Resilience STAR™

An Energy Star-type program for disaster resistant homes.


In a past column, I wrote about “drift,” a term now used to describe housing. If extreme weather or a terror attack on our energy distribution systems comes, and you’re cut off from civilization, how long could a house drift? Drift can also refer to the resiliency of the structure, its so-called passive survivability. To put it another way: How long will a structure be stable and habitable in the absence of water, power, and energy and in the presence of extreme weather or adverse conditions?

Not to spoil some good old-fashioned disaster prep, but now the government is getting in on the act. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is creating a new program called Resilience STAR™. This program will build and retrofit homes so they are more disasterresistant (think of it as an Energy Star for resiliency).

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DHS is dipping its toe into the water, no pun intended, by focusing on singlefamily homes in hurricane-prone communities. If it works as designed, just think of how many lives and how much money it can save. Hurricane Katrina, for instance, which hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, killed more than 1,800 people and caused around $125 billion in damage.

The DHS states that Resilience STAR is a “government-led, public-private initiative to promote and recognize resilient building design and practices.” Resilience STAR will develop and communicate a standardized designation of resilient homes. Initially, it will be implemented in high-risk communities; these homes will use so-called “code-plus” construction techniques and industry standards that DHS says are “scientifically proven to reduce deaths, injuries, human suffering, economic losses and property damage caused by disasters.”

The Resilience STAR program will also recognize homes that are voluntarily built or remodeled to be resistant to specific natural hazards. That means the homes will have enhanced abilities to withstand the impact of a severe weather event and adapt to changing conditions. DHS says that studies have shown that certain areas of the country could save billions of dollars in property damage if they build resiliently before a catastrophe strikes.

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If the government is going to put a Resilience STAR program in place, they’ll need trained workers, and DHS has a plan for that as well. Homebuilders, contractors, homeowners and evaluators can visit (link) to learn more about Resilience STAR.

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