The Business of Building Resilience


As you might imagine, as a kid, I cut quite a dashing figure in my Scout uniform, with my knee-high socks and neckerchief. Keep that image in mind. We’ll get back to it in a minute.

Fast-forward to this year, and I’m excited to get out and visit BOMA local associations across the United States and affiliates around the world to share with you the many issues that make up what I’ll call the business of BOMA. As I do, I want to ensure with my fellow members that building resilience and emergency preparedness are top of mind.

That phrase can mean many things. But, at its core, resilience is the capability of our communities and properties to bounce back after an event, whether it’s of natural or human origin, with a maximum of life safety and a minimum of property damage and loss of business. Resilience can be costly—if, that is, you’re planning to build a fortress. And, it often can be a challenge to justify any building costs, let alone those that prevent against hazards that haven’t occurred yet.

But, when it comes to cost justification, think about the interruption, the lost productivity, the potential supply chain interruption. Those long-term costs can severely hobble a business—yours and that of your occupants. And, remember, there’s some good data out there from our friends at the National Institute of Building Sciences indicating that, for every dollar invested, you’re going to save at least four when an event does occur.

But, baseline resilience strategies don’t need to break the bank, and there are many no- and low-cost operational strategies that can serve as a great start. It all begins by analyzing the threats that are common to your locale. Here in my adopted state of California, earthquakes and wildfires make headlines all too frequently, as do hurricanes in my hometown of New Orleans (see "Property Managers Rally in the Face of Real Crises.")

What are your communications strategies for these and other emergencies? How quickly can you rally your team, or even contact them simply to assess their personal needs?

A simple design review and walk around your property could provide some key ideas to minimize damage and greatly aid your speed to recovery. How susceptible is your building to power disruption? Do you have an adequate firebreak in your building landscaping? Is your key building equipment at grade level or elevated? Will your roof ballast survive in heavy winds?

A visit back home to New Orleans earlier this year happened to take place just as Hurricane Barry made landfall. I was visiting a family member in the hospital and realized how lucky we were when the storm hit to be in such a fortified place with solid walls and backup generators. Your tenants and your staff deserve the same feeling. (Even though Barry was a Category 1 storm, there was still an estimated half-billion dollars in damages.)

I can’t go further into the details of a well-thought-out building resilience strategy in the space of this short column. But, as I visit members around the country and around the world over this next year and discuss with you the business of BOMA, I also hope to raise awareness of this mission-critical issue, to get it on everyone’s radar and start dialogues about resilience.

Yes, on one hand, this is a complex issue that involves coordination with many people, including local authorities, as well as carefully planned systems and procedures, all tailored to the specific needs of the area.

But, on the other hand, building resilience is very simple. It brings me back to my days as a Boy Scout. Our motto: "Be prepared."

This article was originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of BOMA Magazine.