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Building and Infrastructure Protection Series: Designing Buildings to Withstand Almost Anything

Building and Infrastructure Protection Series (BIPS) publications picture. PIctured report is titled: Aging INfrastructure: Issues, Research, and Technology By helping buildings withstand unusually severe hazards, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) aims to keep critical infrastructure open for business.

In an ideal world, every tunnel, train terminal, and critical building would be built like a fortress to withstand any emergency. But in the real world, construction costs matter and engineers “build to code.” While Americans can take comfort that their critical infrastructure meets minimum codes for safety, when terror—or nature—hits especially hard, minimum codes provide minimal comfort.

Now, thanks to researchers at DHS S&T, communities can fortify today’s critical structures—and design tomorrow’s—to absorb blows and remain open if assaulted by extreme earth, wind, water, fire, or man.

A new publication series, aimed at engineers, architects, building owners, city planners, and emergency managers, makes available years of government, industry, and academic research on designs and materials to make buildings and tunnels terror-resistant and terror-resilient. The Building and Infrastructure Protection Series (BIPS) provides architects and engineers a set of aids for designing critical infrastructure to withstand all kinds of hazards…at a cost that won’t break the budget.

“This series lays the foundation for designing a new generation of resilient buildings,” says Mila Kennett, who oversees the series in S&T’s Infrastructure Protection and Disaster Management Division, where she leads the Structural Resilience Branch. An architect by training, Kennett came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where she edited a similar publication series after 9/11. Several of the BIPS guides expand upon and update her highly regarded FEMA guides.

The BIPS series comprises seven documents, four software applications, one website, and one training course:

  • Aging of Infrastructure: Issues Research and Technology (BIPS 01) makes available the proceedings from the Directorate’s Aging Infrastructure Workshop, which focused on transportation.
  • Integrated Rapid Visual Screening (IRVS) software lets an inspector use a guided checklist on an iPad to quickly see how well a tunnel (BIPS 03), train station (BIPS 02), or building (BIPS 04) can withstand various assaults from nature or man. The findings can be used by police, emergency managers, facility managers, engineers, and architects as they size up and mitigate broader risks. 
  • IRVS for Mass Transit Stations (BIPS 02) lets an inspector quickly weigh the risk and resilience of a terminal used for trains or buses.
  • IRVS for Tunnels (BIPS 03) lets an inspector quickly weigh the risk and resilience of a tunnel. 
  • IRVS for Buildings (BIPS 04) lets an inspector quickly weigh the risk and resilience of a building. Restricted to law enforcers and other credentialed users, the software classifies the building into one of 15 types, scoring its resilience against 20 hazards.
  • Preventing Structures from Collapsing to Limit Damage to Adjacent Structures and Additional Loss of Life when Explosives Devices Impact Highly Populated Urban Centers (BIPS 05) documents the research and development that S&T conducted to develop BIPS 06.
  • Primer on Blast Load Effects in Urban Canyons: The Urban Blast Tool, or UBT (BIPS 06) is software that can quickly calculate how a bomb blast’s shockwave changes strength and course as it ripples through a cluttered cityscape. The software reveals the odds that the wave will cause a specific building to collapse. It also evaluates the odds that the wave will damage building equipment needed to carry out emergency evacuation, rescue, and recovery. Designed to model the effects of a bomb blast in the Manhattan Financial District, the software was deployed there in 2011. Future UBTs will do the same for other major metropolitan business districts.
  • Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings (BIPS 07) refreshes FEMA 426, Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings. The manual identifies new ways to blunt the damage and limit casualties from various attacks. It also offers a new way to understand infrastructure resiliency and assess risk. 
  • Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings (BIPS 08) updates FEMA 428, Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks. The primer provides school designers and administrators a set of guidelines to design a school where children, faculty and staff will be safe during a physical attack or targeted shooting.
  • The Building Design for Homeland Security Training Course (BIPS 09) teaches architects, engineers, building owners, and law enforcers how to identify and weigh the risks posed by a wide range of manmade threats. During the course, participants practice ways to mitigate a range of hazards. 
  • High Performance Based Design for the Building Enclosure (BIPS 10) is a report that gives building owners, developers, and designers a standard way to evaluate the payoff from making key building attributes more resilient, energy-efficient, durable, and sustainable. A supporting application, the Owner’s Performance Requirements Tool, or OPR, can be used online. Eventually, the OPR will cover the key whole-building systems and other types of building.

The BIPS software applications and OPR website will be demonstrated February 1st in an S&T webinar: Cutting Edge Risk and Resiliency Tools.

Launched over the last three years, the BIPS books, applications, and training course have been embraced by the Transportation Security Administration, other federal agencies, the New York City Police Department, state and local governments, and the private sector.

Last Updated: 12/23/2022
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