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MIT Developing Tools to Predict Damage from Natural Hazards

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

MIT is working on tools to help building stakeholders estimate the cost of natural disasters for a building over it's lifetime. Armed with this information, a building owner, or even an entire community, can make a decision to build to a more resilient standard to avoid the cost of repair, maintenance and possible replacement from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods or fires.

Home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy on November 4, 2012 in Far Rockaway, NY

Most builders and building owners make decisions about materials and building methods based on first cost. However, knowing up front how much money you could invest to build a more resilient building could result in cost savings over the long term especially in areas prone to natural disasters. MIT researchers are using life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) to develop a simple tool to help building designers consider and reduce economic impacts from natural hazards. The LCCA approach incorporates a risk-based analysis of hazards specific to a building’s location. The first tool focuses on areas prone to hurricanes, including the entire U.S. east coast and Gulf coast from Maine to Texas.

The Break-even Mitigation Percentage (BEMP) tool provides a suggested amount to spend up-front to reduce the possibility of future damage. The BEMP uses publicly-available data about hazards in a given area. As would be expected, buildings located in Miami would have one of the highest BEMP, 17.3%, according to the tool. But other buildings along the coast, such as Cape May, NJ would have a BEMP of 2.3%. That means one could spend an additional 17.3% on resilient construction in Miami or 2.3% in Cape May and still come out even over a 50 year time period.

MIT is now working on additional tools to address other hazards such as floods, earthquakes and fire. Try the BEMP tool for hurricanes yourself here:


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