Resilient and Sustainable Buildings
Self-Assessments & Building Walkthroughs
The Ready Rating Assessment assisted your organization early on in reviewing the status of emergency plans and procedures. Another valuable exercise to evaluate your facilities ability to withstand hazards is a walk-through of your facility for safety and security concerns. This walk-through can highlight physical hazards in the building, recommendations for physical security improvements, and identification of areas of refuge and evacuation routes. Contact us to schedule a coordinated walk-through of your facility with the Police Department, Fire Marshal's Office, and Emergency Management. For some critical infrastructure facilities, we recommend inviting the US Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Advisor assigned to New Hampshire (Jason Climer) to assist in the walk-through. These subject matter experts will be able to help identify a range of ways to improve your facility to help your organization become more resilient.
Many of the items that can be identified during a walkthrough will require no investment at all, and may result in changes in practices/habits, new policies and training, or maintenance of existing physical systems. Some of the suggestions may be installing a generator to maintain power for critical equipment or better locks on doors to slow down intruders. The goal of these recommendations is to "harden" a facility and help mitigate the impacts of the hazards that make your organization most vulnerable.
Depending on your industry or type of facility, there may be specific concerns to be reviewed during a walk through. We have included assessments that are applicable to all organizations as well as specialized checklists for certain industries/sectors. Surveys marked with asterisk are not intended to be self-assessments and require technical assistance from a subject matter expert (facilities manager, engineer, architect, physical security professional). At a minimum, you can review the questions in those more complex assessments and answer only those questions you are familiar with to get started:
- All Sectors
- OSHA Self-Inspection Checklist (Starting on Page 17)
- FEMA/DHS Building Vulnerability Assessment Checklist*
- FEMA/DHS Integrated Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings*
- DHS Infrastructure Survey Tool* (to be completed by Nashua Office of Emergency Management and/or DHS Protective Security Advisor)
- Best Available Refuge Area Checklist* (to be completed by an architect or engineer)
- DHS Best Practices for Anti-Terrorism Security (BPATS) Assessment* (to be completed by Nashua Office of Emergency Management or a certified BPATS Assessor)
- NH HSEM Physical Security Self Assessment Guidelines
- NH DFS School Fire and Life Safety Inspection Checklist* (completed with Nashua Fire Marshal annually)
- NH DOE School Facility Self-Assessment Checklist
- NH Childcare Mitigation Checklist
- DHS K-12 School Security Survey
- CDC Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) School Assessment (CSA)
- NCEF Mitigating Hazards in School Facilities
- Faith Organizations
*Surveys marked with asterisk are not intended to be self-assessments and require technical assistance from a subject matter expert. Contact us for assistance.
Options for Consideration
After completing a walkthrough you will identify a number of areas for improvement. Things like blocked emergency exits and expired first aid kits can be resolved quickly. Recommendations related to physical improvements to the structure may take longer and should be incorporated into capital improvement plans and annual budgets. Many community non-profit partners have had success drafting grant applications to fund safety/security related recommendations using the methodology provided here in the Resilient Nashua Toolkit.
It can feel daunting to try and determine which investments will make the most sense for your facility. You can use the risk scores developed in your Hazard Vulnerability Assessment to prioritize areas where you can make prevention, mitigation, and adaptation investments. We have reviewed a number of tools that can help trigger some ideas for possible improvements to your facilities:
FEMA Ready Business has created a series of Toolkits around a number of specific hazards, each with a section dedicated to improvements that can be made to your facility. Click each link for an overview video of possible mitigation actions:
- Surroundings: includes the land-use decisions regarding constructing risk reducing structures for your property or reducing structures that pose a risk to your property
- Space: includes the contents of your workspace such as furniture, computers or equipment, tall shelving, filing cabinets, hanging artwork, and freestanding partitions
- Systems: includes utility systems that support the operation of the building
- Structure: includes architectural and structural elements of the building, especially construction types that may be vulnerable to damage or failure during an event
Each toolkit provides recommendations for each of the sections described above. Review each section and determine the recommendations that would be applicable to your facility and would help reduce the likelihood of impacts during an incident. Some recommendations will reduce risk across hazards (i.e. installing a backup generator or solar+battery storage) and will maximize benefit over cost for the mitigation measure. View the toolkits below:
FEMA has developed another resource to assist communities with identifying and evaluating a range of potential mitigation actions for reducing risk to natural hazards and disasters. FEMA Mitigation Ideas provides mitigation recommendations for 16 different natural hazards. Organizations looking for opportunities reduce risk to their facilities should target on the Structure and Infrastructure Projects and Natural Systems Protection sections for each hazard.
Enterprise Green Communities, is an organization that helps developers, investors, builders and policymakers make the transition to a green future for affordable housing. They have developed Ready to Respond: Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience, a collection of 19 practical strategies for building owners to make their properties more resilient against the effects of extreme weather events. While the manual focuses on multifamily buildings, the resilience strategies apply to the majority of structures. The guide does an excellent job for any building offering guidance on determining a property’s vulnerability to various hazards, finding which strategies are relevant to a particular building, and getting started with a resilience plan.
Physical security is another primary concern of facilities today. The Resilient Nashua Toolkit recommends the adoption of a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) mindset when determining infrastructure improvements. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior through environmental design. Some Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles that can be considered include:
- Natural surveillance: the placement of physical features that maximize visibility. Example: The strategic use of windows that look out on the building entrance so that patrons can see into the building and know that others can see them.
- Access management: guiding people by using signs, well-marked entrances and exits, and landscaping. It may also include limiting access to certain areas by using real or symbolic barriers. Example: Landscaping that reduces access to unsupervised locations on the building grounds.
- Territoriality: a clear delineation of space, expressions of pride or ownership, and the creation of a welcoming environment. Example: Motivational signs, displays of employee/student art, and the use of organizational colors to create warmth and express pride. Public areas are clearly distinguished from private ones.
- Physical maintenance: includes repair and general upkeep of space. Example: Removing graffiti in restrooms in a timely manner and making the necessary repairs to restrooms, light fixtures, and stairways to maintain safety and comfort.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can be enhanced with mechanical and electronic physical security enhancements. Mechanical and electronic concepts use devices and technology that make committing the crime more difficult. Sometimes referred to as “target hardening,” mechanical and electronic measures emphasize hardware and technological systems, such as locks, security screens on windows, fencing and gating, key control systems, closed circuit television (CCTV), and other security technologies. Windows may have protective glazing that withstands blows without breaking. Doors and window hardware may have special material and mountings which make them hard to remove or tamper with. Walls, floors, or doors may be specially reinforced in high-security areas with materials that are difficult to penetrate.
The Nashua Police Department can conduct a review of your facility for both Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and other mechanical and electronic security tactics. If you would like to focus on a physical security assessment, please schedule through the NPD Crime Prevention Officer. For more information on options for consideration to improve physical security to your facility, see this guide.
Resilient Power Systems
Most would agree that power is a critical lifeline for the operation of most facilities. Power outages not only impact the devices that are plugged into the wall, but also may disable many of the other lifelines necessary for our facility operations including telecommunications, water, wastewater, and gas. In addition to reviewing the Power Outage Ready Business Toolkit described above, your organization should identify options for an alternate power source to keep your organization operational during short and extended outages. The EPA has developed an intuitive Power Resilience Guide that enables your organization to understand the step-by-step process of generator options, critical load analysis, and installation. The guide is meant for Water and Wastewater facilities but the concepts apply across all sectors. The City of San Francisco conducted a critical load analysis of its facilities and their report includes methodology and examples to assist in conducting a critical load analysis for your facility.
Historically, diesel-powered generators have been considered the standard for supplying emergency power in the event of power outages. There are many fuel sources and generator types and that should be considered depending on your facility size and power draw. In the event your organization does not have the funding to install a fixed generator, you should always consider the installation of a manual transfer switch and and a connection point for use with a portable or trailer mounted generator. Generators should ALWAYS be installed by a qualified electrician to prevent back-feeding into the electrical distribution network. This is a necessary precaution in order to ensure the safety of utility employees dispatched to restore functionality to the central grid.
Solar+Storage is becoming an extremely viable option when looking at the installation of a resilient power system for a commercial facility. While renewable power technologies like solar photovoltaics (PV) have the ability to generate electricity independent of the central grid, many of the solar PV system owners across the City are often surprised to find their building is without power when the grid goes down, even when the sun is shining. This is because the majority of PV systems currently installed are grid-tied, and lack both energy storage capacity and islanding capability. For safety reasons, these systems are configured to shut down when the grid goes down; if they did not, they could send power back up grid distribution lines undergoing repair, endangering utility line workers.
With steadily dropping costs in both solar and energy storage technologies, solar+storage has become a viable and more reliable choice for emergency power. Not only do solar+storage systems have the ability to provide power indefinitely when the grid is unavailable, they can also cut costs and generate revenue during the 99.9% of the time when the grid is functioning normally. This is done through many applications including moving energy use from a period of high consumption to a period of low consumption, storing renewable generation to be used at night, or storing grid power to be used during periods of grid outage. In many cases, these savings and revenue streams can drastically reduce the payback period of an energy storage system. If your organization experiences high consumption, demand, or time of use charges, energy storage may be a no-brainer.
The Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project has developed a Solar+Storage 101 Guide to help organizations assess the benefits of a resilient power system. Your organization can complete a Solar+Storage Checklist to review the opportunities and configuration of a potential system for your facility.
New Construction, Additions, and Renovations
If your organization is planning the design of a new building, or the renovation or addition to an existing building, it is recommended to incorporate resiliency into the structure. This can be as simple as the inclusion of a generator or solar+battery storage during construction, or as comprehensive as implementation of a "Code-Plus" or "Above Code" design standard. The 2009 International Building Code with amendments adopted by the State of New Hampshire and the City of Nashua establishes design, construction and maintenance requirements to protect the people who work in and visit commercial buildings. However, because building codes are considered minimum legal standards that focus on life safety for occupants and first responders, they are not optimal for preserving building use, ensuring reuse or business continuity, or providing the maximum practicable property protection.
Code-Plus/Above Code becomes even more appealing when you look at the reduced overall costs of resilient building construction up-front rather when compared to retrofits or repairs after a disaster. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) found that increased costs of construction for the enhanced standards varied between less than one percent for the larger facilities to approximately five percent for the smaller buildings. That's not much of an investment when it ensures you can recover sooner after a disaster!
IBHS has developed the FORTIFIED suite of commercial construction standards, which equip business owners with a blueprint for building stronger, more resilient commercial facilities based on building science engineering guidance for natural and man-made hazards.
These voluntary construction standards can be utilized during new construction or remodeling and can be broadly applicable to all hazards, or more narrowly focused on a specific hazard:
- FORTIFIED for Safer Business - Focused on new construction and building additions
- FORTIFIED Commercial - Focused on new construction and building additions but can also be used to improve building strength when a building is being renovated or repaired
Where FORTIFIED is a performance-based standard, The Resiliency Action List (RELi - pronounced rely) was developed as a holistic national consensus standard through an ANSI-approved process, began piloting in 2015, and was adopted by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) in late 2017. RELi provides a comprehensive process for incorporating resilience into new building design and planning. The program is structured similarly to LEED, using lists of credits and prerequisites that draw on existing standards (including FORTIFIED). It can be applied to homes, buildings, infrastructure, districts, neighborhoods, and campuses. It is one of the most comprehensive new building standards on resilience today, combining principles of resiliency and sustainability at the building and community level.
RELi has more than sixty actions, addressing facility planning, design, operations, and maintenance. Other categories include site selection, emergency operations and planning (e.g., back-up power and thermal safety), and adaptive design based on a variety of specific hazards or groupings of related hazards. The actions range from planning for future risks (e.g., avoiding areas on the basis of projected sea-level rise - not a concern in Nashua!) to adapting to or mitigating existing hazards and incorporating longer-term community cohesion, health, and economic vitality. Even if your organization is not interested in pursuing the full RELi Standard, the Credit Catalog can provide a jump-start of ideas to help reduce risk and make your facility and organization more resilient.
Resilience, safety, and security improvements to your facility can range in costs and implementation timelines. Overall, the rule of thumb is that "no cost" life safety and security actions like moving cluster near emergency exits and trimming of shrubs near buildings should be resolved immediately. Low cost actions like maintaining existing fire suppression or closed circuit television systems and the purchase of first aid kits should be prioritized and included in annual budgets. Your organization's capital improvement plan should incorporate expenses for larger and more expensive resilience measures like generator installations or access control projects. If you are a non-profit organization, school, or childcare, look to possible grant funding to implement these larger projects. Finally, resilience is most cost effective when it is incorporated in the initial design process for any new facilities or additions/retrofits to existing facilities rather than attempting to fund these components after the structure has already been built.
If you have any questions about resilience options for consideration, contact us.