Weathering the Weather

Adele Bassett

ASTM standards support building resilience, a structure's ability to withstand disasters.

When Hurricane Andrew roared through Florida and the Gulf Coast states in August 1992, it reached Category 5 intensity and caused catastrophic damage. ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings responded by developing a test method and a specification dealing with the performance of exterior windows, curtain walls, doors and impact protective systems affected by windborne debris in hurricanes. The goal was to make buildings more resilient, or better able to withstand natural disasters and recover from them more quickly.

Today, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, and with predictions of increasingly severe weather events worldwide, ASTM members are developing a new guide for assessing the resilience of buildings (WK49227). Led by Subcommittee E06.55 on Performance of Building Enclosures, this effort will help municipalities, design professionals, property owners and facility managers.

"The primary objectives of implementing resiliency strategies is to protect people and property investments and to lessen the disruption to our normal activities caused by adverse events," says Brett Farbstein, ASTM's technical contact for the new work item. Farbstein, a senior commissioning engineer and project manager for CanonDesign, also leads his firm's resiliency task force.

There is a wealth of information available on building resilience that already incorporates ASTM standards. This includes the online "Whole Building Design Guide" (managed by the National Institute of Building Sciences) and an online catalog being developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. However, Farbstein notes, "there's not yet a whole building resiliency standard or assessment tool available."

Ensuring Durability, Resistance and Recovery

"One way to define resiliency is the ability of a material, assembly or whole building to recover from exposure," says Theresa Weston, a technical fellow with DuPont Building Innovations. "Resilience depends on the nature and extent of the exposure and the ability of a given material, assembly or building to return to an operable condition. Resiliency starts with durability to standard conditions and then expands to resistance or recoverability from extreme short-duration exposures."

In other words, building resilience is an especially broad topic that touches all sorts of scenarios associated with everyday and extreme natural events, including heavy precipitation, flooding, severe winds, blizzards, earthquakes, extreme hot and cold, and man-made catastrophes like terrorism. So ensuring a building's resilience can include: installing proper insulation, operable windows and solar-shading devices; locating mechanical equipment on the roof; and using more blast-proof materials.

The proposed new ASTM guide for assessing a building's resilience is likely to include building component testing and selection, building operations and maintenance, and overall building performance. In addition to including existing ASTM standards, the guide will also identify areas where new standards are needed.

Supporting Standards and Activity

Already, Farbstein's group has developed a list of almost 50 published ASTM standards and five work items relevant to the proposed guide. The standards cover such concerns as:

  • Glazing systems;
  • Different types of sheathing for insulation and structural support;
  • Performance of exterior windows, curtain walls and doors;
  • Load resistance of glass;
  • Air leakage;
  • Air blast loadings;
  • Wind-borne debris;
  • Stormwater-induced erosion; and
  • Seismic risks.

Standards associated with limiting water damage are especially important, says Weston. "When examining the resilience of a material, system or building, we must make sure we include long-term exposure to precipitation. A large percentage of construction failures are associated with long-term water intrusion at low levels, which needs to continue to be addressed, while addressing one-time, extreme-exposure events."

In particular, she cites the relevance of ASTM guides for limiting water-induced damage to buildings, evaluating water leakage of building walls, and designing and constructing low rise frame building wall systems to resist water intrusion. Notably, Farbstein's group plans to incorporate ASTM test methods associated with flood damage resistance and a guideline for using infrared technology for investigating water intrusion in buildings.

Two additional work items will address designing buildings to provide physical protection from vehicular threats and to shelter a building's exterior from blast loading due to terrorist attacks.

An Ongoing and Expanding Focus

The proposed guide for building resilience assessment will include input from several committees, especially those dealing with building materials and assemblies. This collaboration will involve Committees D08 on Roofing and Waterproofing, C11 on Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems, and C16 on Thermal Insulation.

Farbstein adds, "It is foreseeable that the topic of resiliency will eventually include committees dealing with utilities and transportation infrastructure because resiliency is also a city and regional issue that is beyond the scope of individual buildings, but has a direct impact on building operations and recovery."

Subcommittee E06.55's efforts will complement NIST's ongoing work to create a Community Disaster Resilience Framework, and establish the NIST Community Resilience Center of Excellence as well as a Disaster Resilience Standards Panel that will provide guidance to local governments and suggest the development of new standards.

Looking forward, building resilience will be a continuing focus of attention of Committee E06. "It's a good fit for our committee," says Anne Spinks, committee chair and research scientist with H.B. Fuller Co. "As the idea of building resiliency becomes more widespread, more standards will be developed that relate to how buildings function."

Controlling Moisture in Buildings

A well-designed building can be beautiful and perfect for its purpose. It must also resist the forces of nature. The devastating effects of moisture damage after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are just two examples of the long-term impact of bad weather.

To help those who design, build, sell, maintain and own buildings to prevent or cope with moisture damage, an ASTM manual addresses Moisture Control in Buildings, the Key Factor in Mold Prevention (Manual 18). The book, more than 600 pages in 28 chapters, focuses on aspects of design, material selection and construction of buildings that resist moisture.

The manual includes four parts that cover:

  • Fundamentals: moisture and how it affects building materials and human health;
  • Applications: technologies that impact the moisture balance in buildings and determine whether a building material or component is suitable for its purpose;
  • Construction Principles and Recommendations: information for both new and existing commercial and residential buildings; and
  • Implementation: specifics about the building process, covering more than design and adequate specifications.

Adele Bassett is a freelance writer who has covered everything from youth gangs in Colorado to earthquakes in Connecticut while working for a variety of corporations and publications. She holds a B.A. in English, an M.S. in journalism and an M.B.A.

Industry Sectors

Issue Month
Issue Year