Building Codes, Mitigation, and Critical Infrastructure

Building Codes & Increasing Adoption of Effective Mitigation Measures

As losses from natural disasters steadily increase, communities search for ways to increase resilience.  Many forms of disaster related-losses are avoidable through property mitigation (e.g., structural modifications to existing homes), but few homeowners invest in mitigation.  Strengthening building codes post-disaster and creating better incentives for investment in property mitigation can limit future losses.  Past Wharton Risk Center research has demonstrated that building codes pay for themselves in disaster-prone regions.  Studies have ranged from analyses of the economic effectiveness of wind-enhanced building codes across regions of varying wind risk to determining the optimal house elevation for reducing flood-related losses.  Other studies have focused, for instance, on building homeowner support for enhanced building codes in tornado prone areas or identifying promising messages to increase hurricane mitigation among coastal homeowners in the United States.  Multiple of these studies have demonstrated that increases in extreme weather due to climate change increase the cost-effectiveness of actions that can mitigate damage.

Past research has been partially funded or conducted in partnership with or the assistance of entities such as:

  • Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research, University of Alabama
  • Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute, University of Illinois
  • Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute, John Hopkins University
  • Florida Department of Emergency Management
  • Florida International University
  • Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
  • Insurance Services Office
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • National Science Foundation
  • Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America
  • Travelers-Wharton Partnership
  • Willis Research Network
  • Zurich Insurance Group

Critical Infrastructure: Identifying and Reducing Barriers to Infrastructure Insurance

While nearly 85% of critical infrastructure is owned or operated by the private sector in the United States, most prior work on “critical infrastructure protection” has focused on the responsibilities of government.  Through funding from the Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois, the Wharton Risk Center researched the role of insurance in providing financial protection against infrastructure damage and encouraging investment in loss reduction measures. Study efforts included review of relevant technical literature, and interviews with managers from the insurance and infrastructure sectors. This investigation provided insight on barriers and opportunities for improving transportation infrastructure resilience to catastrophic events.


US transportation infrastructure resilience: Influences of insurance, incentives, and public assistance

Cyber risk and insurance for transportation infrastructure

Improving US transportation infrastructure resilience through insurance and incentives

Hurricanes and power system reliability-the effects of individual decisions and system-level hardening

Identifying and Reducing Barriers to Infrastructure Catastrophic Risk Insurance – Transportation Infrastructure Systems

Insurance, Economic Incentives and other Policy Tools for Strengthening Critical Infrastructure Resilience: 20 Proposals for Action

Seeds of Disaster, Roots of Response: How Private Action Can Reduce Public Vulnerability