In The Fight For CRE Resiliency, Contractors Lead The Way

As earthquakes rattle major cities and record-setting wildfires paint the skies an apocalyptic orange, the real estate industry’s focus is once again being pulled toward whether buildings are prepared for natural disasters and the escalating effects of climate change.

Disaster-prone regions like the Bay Area have strict codes requiring upgrades like fire-resistant materials and structural designs that will stay sturdy in case of earthquakes. Cities like Portland and Seattle have similar seismic measures, while cities in Hawaii and the Southeast have protocols for preparing for hurricanes. But many of the most cutting-edge resiliency measures are unlikely to be added to the building code soon, if ever.

In the world of building resiliency, the largest leaps are often made by a combination of two forces: building owners who believe in creating a long-lasting, environmentally friendly structure and contractors who can make their goals a financial and material reality.

“As a general contractor, we can’t wait for building and fire codes to catch up,” said Patrick Otellini, a project manager in the Bay Area offices of Swinerton, a national contractor. “We have to evolve the way the industry thinks and builds. Our clients are only going to hire us if we have that drive and if we can help them realize the financial benefits of these resiliency measures.”

Some building resiliency measures that are not mandated by local building codes are still popular among owners. Lining building roofs with solar panels is now a common resiliency measure that can reduce energy consumption and ensure that a building will have a source of power in case of an outage caused by a natural disaster. Stronger, more efficient ventilation systems can lower utility costs and filter pathogens and chemicals out of the air, which can be crucial if air quality is impacted by fires or other weather.