Resilient Construction Overview

Resilience, a structure’s ability to withstand and recover from disaster, is a critical issue in today’s world. Building residents, building owners, lenders, and institutional investors alike are vulnerable to the negative impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires.

A number of ASTM International committees develop resilience-related standards to help assess vulnerability and to plan and design for the future. Many of these standards fall into five categories: extreme weather protection, energy efficiency, durability, moisture management, and fire safety.

Encouraging stakeholders to work towards improved resilience is the ultimate goal of ASTM International’s infrastructure-related committees and the standards they develop.

Extreme Weather Protection

From hurricanes to tornadoes to tsunamis, extreme weather and its increasing frequency and intensity worldwide requires standards for construction that can stand up to these forces. ASTM committees such as soil and rock (D18), performance of buildings (E06), and environmental assessment, risk management and corrective action (E50) have developed an array of standards to address this demand.

The committee on soil and rock (D18) focuses on subsurface aspects as they relate to building with or on natural materials, as well as the movement of fluids contained in soil and rock. The committee works on site evaluation and material characterization, measuring the properties of rock and soil and defining the topography. The standards they develop also help determine where excess waters will go in floods and rain.

Committee D18 has 23 technical subcommittees with over 360 standards for the geotechnical and geo-environmental industry. Among these is the standard practice for silt fence installation and management (D6462). Without proper installation and oversight, silt fences will not perform the job of controlling sediment overflow during heavy rains. What results is storm water runoff, which can contaminate lakes, rivers, and other water sources.

Along with silt fencing standard practices, D18 has instituted test methods for the performance of rolled erosion control products in protecting hill slopes from eroding in rain (D6459) and earthen channels eroding from storm water (D6460). A related test method describes how to measure the mass per unit area of erosion control blankets (D6475).

D18 has several test methods that aid in the design and construction of levees. Assisting with site characterization is the test method for electronic friction cone and piezocone penetration testing of soils (D5778), which evaluates possible flow paths and weak layers below a levee. The test method for consolidated triaxial compression test for cohesive soils (D4767) provides material characterization for quantifying strength and stress-strain relationships. Other D18 standards address earthwork concerns such as soil compression and the rate of consolidation (D4186), hydraulic conductivity (D2434), erodibility (D4647), laboratory compaction characteristics of soil (D698), and in-place density and moisture of soil and soil aggregate (D6938). The last two are part of construction control, which sets placement criteria and validates what is put in place.

Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of a structure contributes to its overall resilience, as the continued supply of power and heating or cooling during extreme weather or a natural disaster is essential. Alternative energy sources such as solar and energy-saving actions are considerations for energy efficiency and resilience. So, too, are the standards from the committees on solar, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources (E44), fire standards (E05), environmental assessment, risk management, and correction (E50), and sustainability (E60).

The 70-member E44 committee has developed 50 standards for solar and other energy alternatives. The standards include test methods for photovoltaic modules, also known as solar panels, exposed to extended periods of high humidity and thermal cycling (E1171) and sunlight (E2527). Others detail practices for installing photovoltaic arrays in harsh environments (E3010) and on steep-sloped roofs where proper water-shedding integration is required (E2766).

During extreme weather or a natural disaster, utility poles may be damaged, causing communities to lose power. Although severe winds and falling trees are often the cause, wildfires can also cause outages. Presently, committee E05 has proposed a standard for determining the charring depth of and structural damage to wood utility poles exposed to simulated wildfires (WK63252). This test method will help determine the burning characteristics of utility poles and may aid in protecting the poles during wildfires, helping to make the grid more energy efficient and resilient.

Committee E50 zeroes in on energy performance with the practice for building energy performance assessment for a building involved in a real estate transaction (E2797). The standard defines an approach to obtaining, compiling, analyzing, and reporting on a commercial building’s energy performance, as well as the total yearly energy use and cost for electricity, heating, cooling, and other activities. This information can assist in understanding energy use and efficiency of a commercial building, which is important for real estate transactions.

The work of the committee on sustainability (E60), defined as the practice of reducing environmental impact and improving quality of life, touches on aspects of resilience. For example, the terminology for sustainability relative to the performance of buildings (E2114) provides a common language for sustainable development and building performance, which includes energy efficiency.

Durability

The ability of a structure to withstand the devastation of a natural disaster or extreme weather and continue to function is a key element of resilience and contributes to overall sustainability. A myriad of considerations go into the construction of a building that can withstand such events. More than 40 ASTM committees address these concerns. In addition to the E06 and E50 committees are those working on gypsum and related building materials and systems (C11), building seals and sealants (C24), and asset management (E53).

Committee C11 focuses on gypsum, the main ingredient in plaster and drywall, and gypsum-related products. One of their 61 standards is a specification for glass mat gypsum for use as an exterior substrate or sheathing for weather barriers (C1177/C1177M). To be utilized as sheathing, gypsum must be tested and conform to a specified flexural strength, humidified deflection, water resistance, and dimensional requirements.

The guide for the use of silicone sealants in protective glazing systems (C1564) was developed by committee C24. This guide details the use of silicone sealants in protective glazing systems that are subject to wind-blown debris, hurricanes, earthquakes, windstorms, and other hazards. It provides direction to architects, manufacturers, installers, designers, and others working with protective glazing systems.

Committee E06 oversees many standards related to durability. These include the performance of exterior windows, curtain walls, doors, and impact protective systems (E1886, E1996); a structure’s airtightness (E1554/1554M, E1827, E2357, E283/E283M); resistance to water penetration and flood damage (E1105, E3075); and additional forms of building performance.

The subcommittee on whole buildings (E06.25) is developing a guide for evaluating building resiliency (WK62996). This standard aims to collect existing ASTM and outside standards on building resiliency and identify areas where standards are lacking. The guide would also standardize a practice for appraising new and existing structures for resilience and educate industry professionals and government officials about this subject.

Committee E50 takes on resiliency strategies in its guide to climate resiliency in water resources (E3136). This standard helps users prepare for the impact of extreme weather events on water sources such as reservoirs, rivers, and storage ponds as well as on water infrastructure. The guide outlines strategies for municipalities, states, and industries to ensure safe water availability. It also outlines high-level options for strategic planning, implementation, and review to ensure that these actions remain environmentally sound, cost effective, and in the public’s best interest.

The asset management committee (E53) develops performance standards for personal proper-ty asset management in industry, educational, and medical institutions, as well as for federal, state, and local governments. Of the committee’s 26 standards, the practice for infrastructure management (E3210) is noted for its push toward resiliency. E3210 establishes transparency and accountability requirements for an assortment of infrastructure asset systems such as potable water supply, sewage, stormwater systems, buildings, and transit and travel. Additionally, the standard details a framework for organizations to evaluate system performance, budgets, investments, and more, and it serves as a resilience engagement process.

Moisture Management

The flooding and leaking caused by natural disasters can damage and destroy structures beyond repair. Along with extreme water events, long-term exposure to precipitation and water intrusion can negatively affect buildings and other structures. Corroded metal, decayed wood-based materials, dissolution of plaster, failure of finishes, and a reduction in material strength can all result from prolonged exposure to moisture. Uncontrolled moisture levels can impact electrical safety, indoor air quality, performance of insulations, and physical appearance. Moisture management can make a structure more durable and, therefore, more resilient. The committee on water (D19) as well as E06 and E50 in particular offer standards to achieve this.

Committee D19 develops standards for water in various forms. These include, but are not limited to, precipitation and condensation, ground water, spring water, surface water (including runoff), wastewater, potable waters, and water discharges. The roughly 400-member committee oversees close to 300 water-related standards, including the practice for depth measurement of surface water (D5073).

This standard provides guidance in selecting one of three procedures for measuring surface water depth: manual measurement, electronic sonic-echo sounding, or electronic non-acoustic measurement. The standard takes into account physical conditions at the site, required quality of data, and availability of measuring equipment.

The guide for measuring horizontal positioning during measurements of surface water depths (D5906) is a closely related standard. This standard offers guidance in selecting one of three procedures for measuring horizontal positioning: manual, optical, or electronic measurement. D5906 also considers physical conditions, data quality, and equipment availability, as well as distances over which measurements will be made.

Fire Safety

Unusually dry and windy fire seasons around the world have caused an increasing number of deadly fires with loss of life, as well as building and landscape destruction. As a result, protecting against internal and external fires by making structures less vulnerable and more fire resistant is critical. This is the goal of the committee on fire standards (E05).

The 670-member committee develops and revises standards for fires, fire tests and test methods, and fire hazards and risk assessments. Its standards relate to buildings, materials, assemblies, furnishings and contents, electrical and mechanical appliances and equipment, and transportation facilities and equipment. The committee also supports fire-related research and the administration and evaluation of fire-research programs. E05 aims to help people design safer homes and buildings in a resilient environment.

A fire occurring miles away may seem less threatening to property owners. Yet airborne embers can travel great distances, land in a home’s eaves, gutters, or other overhangs, and smolder there for hours before igniting. The test method for resistance to wildfire penetration of eaves, soffits, and other projections (E2957) takes this scenario into account. The test describes how to measure material response to heat and flame under laboratory fire test conditions. This method is one of several standards under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee on external fire exposures (E05.14). The other standards evaluate roof coverings (E108), exterior wall coverings (E2707), vents (E2886/E2886M), and decks. In the case of decks, the committee has two standards for two different fire occurrences. To test the response of deck materials to flames beneath a deck, there is E2632/E2632M. Testing the reaction of deck materials to a fire on the upper surface of the deck is covered in E2726/2726M.

Just as bouncing back from a natural disaster requires collaboration among diverse groups, so, too, does the creation of standards for resilience. ASTM International has a wide range of committees working on five aspects of resilience—extreme weather protection, energy efficiency, durability, moisture management, and fire safety. Through their efforts, stakeholders will be able to address vulnerabilities to natural disasters and plan for future events.

ASTM Standardization News Information

Articles and other content on resilience and construction topics are available from ASTM’s Standardization News magazine at www.astm.org/sn-construction and www.astm.org/sn-environmental .

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The ASTM technical committees highlighted in this piece include:



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