The Low Cost of Preparedness

You've got to spend money to save money was the message from a new report from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), which found that every dollar spent on federal grants for disaster resilience saved an average of six dollars in recovery costs. This represented an improvement over the results from an earlier study from 2005, which found the cost savings to be four dollars for every dollar spent in grants. "A lot of things have happened since 2005. Katrina, Sandy, and the increasing ... frequency of disasters prompted us to look at what has changed," Ryan Colker, a NIBS spokesperson, told City Lab.

Many of the grants were used on simple activities for resilience, focusing on items like installation of hurricane shutters, replacing flammable roofs, or clearing vegetation near to at-risk structures.

The report was not limited to public grants, instead also examining the gains seen when private sector developers worked to exceed local standards for building resilience. While not as beneficial as those funded by private grants, investments in this area -- on items like elevating homes to higher levels than required in areas at risk of flood, or exceeding the seismic safety rules -- still yielded a savings of four dollars for every dollar spent.

Says Colker, "as we continue to produce information about the benefits of resilience, I think you can see an increased recognition from builders that people are willing to pay for this. There's value associated with it."