Tell Us How to Make It Better

He's Designing Homes and Buildings to Last Far into the Future

June 21, 2022 George Siegal Season 1 Episode 43
Tell Us How to Make It Better
He's Designing Homes and Buildings to Last Far into the Future
Show Notes Transcript

June 21, 2022
43. He's Designing Homes and Buildings to Last Far into the Future

Illya Azaroff is an architect and expert in building resilient capacity and climate adaptation. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and is the founder of +lab architects focused on giving voice and viability to vulnerable communities around the world.

Here are some important moments with Illya from the podcast: 

At 8:22 How do we go from being a reactive society to being proactive so we are doing things in advance that will save our homes from disasters?

At 13:01 From an Architects perspective, should we be demanding more from our builders?

At 25:57 What can we do to help people who might not be able to afford to do the things that are necessary to make their homes safe?

Here are social media platforms to follow Illya:

Website: Www.pluslabglobal.com

 Twitter: @pluslab

 LinkedIn: Illya Azaroff

 Facebook: +lab

 Instagram: azaroffillya

 Email: Ia.plusLAB@gmail.com

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George Siegal:

I think they build houses knowing that they're not gonna last. What do you find from, from an architect's position?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah, I, I, you know, I think there's, you'll, you'll find the good, the bad and the ugly in any, any of these circumstances. And I've worked with builders that are very advanced in thinking and great partners to get well beyond code. In my opinion, when you, you said it exactly right. Code is an absolute minimum. We look at projects when we do a project, we're looking at the science and project forward at least 50 or a hundred years.

George Siegal:

I'm George Siegal and this is the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week, we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual solutions. Tell Us How to Make It Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab, the home for podcasts, webinars, and training in the field of emergency and disaster services. Hi everybody. Thank you so much for joining me on this week's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week on this podcast, I try to introduce you to someone who in their life or in their job has identified a problem and is doing something to try to make it better. Well, for those of you who don't know. I made a documentary film called The Last House Standing and one of the themes in the film is how unprepared we are for major disasters and we see the damage every year, people lose their homes. All their possessions, lives are lost and it doesn't have to be that way. The technology exists to do it better. In today's podcast. You're going to meet a gentleman who is forward thinking in how he designs homes and buildings and. Communities. So we aren't cleaning up after disasters, but we're building in a way that can actually prevent the damage that occurs when they happen. My guest today is Illya Azaroff. He's an architect and expert in building resilient capacity and climate adaptation. He's a fellow of the American Institute of architects and is the founder of plus lab architects focused on giving voice and viability to vulnerable communities around the world. Illya, thank you so much for coming on today.

Illya Azaroff:

Thanks. Thanks for having me today. It's great to be here.

George Siegal:

I'm glad to have you now. I, I like to start off by asking a couple questions that weren't on the list of questions that I sent you. Just give people a chance to get to know you a little better. Tell us something about you that most people don't know, and you won't really care if this is the first place they heard it.

Illya Azaroff:

Oh, wow. That's that's a good one. Wow. Yeah. You know, How about you know, what I, I really love to, to cook and I'll go to great lengths to find extreme ingredients and spices. I just love it. I just love tying food and culture together.

George Siegal:

You don't mind all the preparation and then all the cleanup afterwards?

Illya Azaroff:

The cleanup. I that's why I have a family. They try to help me with the cleanup and I, and sometimes I really love the product. . George Siegal: Wow. If you can get your kids to help cleanup, then you're a miracle guest to have on here at all. So cooking what's, what's the best thing you've ever made. What's the most extreme dish you've ever made? Wow. You know, well over the pandemic my kids and I, we decided to just spin the globe and, and just randomly to pick a country. And so one of the really cool things was we hit Vanuatu. They make this really amazing dish called lap lap and lap lap is, is basically they put all these amazing ingredients, mostly vegetarian with coconut milk and you wrap it in banana leaves. And then you, you cook it in the oven. You should be an earth oven, but when you, you pull this thing out, it's, it's amazing. The presentation. It's just beautiful, but finding all of those ingredients, it was really cool.

George Siegal:

I can imagine it was challenging finding those ingredients where you live, but was the dish worth it? Was it great?

Illya Azaroff:

Oh, it was delicious. It was great. We we've made it since a couple of times. Now that we know where to source everything.

George Siegal:

You see, I'd have to find a place that served that. I don't think I could do it, but it sounds amazing. Sounds like something I would love. Now, if you were told out so that you had to go out today and just have fun all you would, you didn't have to do any work. What would you do for fun?

Illya Azaroff:

Surfing or scuba diving? Get to the beach.

George Siegal:

Nice. All right. So I've read about your background. I've heard about you from a, a mutual friend that we both have. Joel May who just who just talks about how terrific you are, what is the problem or issue that you have been working on?

Illya Azaroff:

You know, and I think a lot of people working on this, it's really the climate impacts to our communities and, and trying to build resilient capacity, connecting indigenous wisdom as well as with contemporary science. And that's, that's really important to do. There's a lot of climate trying to build capacity through, you know, climactically sensitive solutions that we got away from probably century ago. Right. So that's really what I'm working on is trying to make communities safe. In these, these strange climactic times.

George Siegal:

Now, when you talk about when you use terms like resilient capacity, Things like that dumb that down for people who don't really understand what that means?

Illya Azaroff:

Sure. Well, in terms of resilient capacity, so your weakest link in, in anything is, is sort of the, the gap in how you can operate before, during and after disaster. So how, how quickly can you bounce back or how much you can resist shocks and stresses, maybe it's high wind or waves or storms or power outages or extreme heat. And so just to think about how do I make my family, my building and my community, a little more, have a little more strength or build resilience, be resilient to those effects so I can continue about my life and have and, and have less effect on it. So that's kind of building resilient capacity. So we try to identify, oh, what's the weakest thing. And how can we work together to make those weaknesses stronger? So you're you're even across the board, you can, you can resist things all across the board.

George Siegal:

Now one of the things we showed in my documentary film, The Last House Standing was that mother nature always finds the weakest link when it, when it blows through. And, and, and a great example of that was in Mexico beach. The house that we featured that survived, the hurricane survived a category five hurricane. There was one place on the roof where they had an, a little opening, a little plug socket, and that part of the roof was torn open by wind. That's one of the only weaknesses they had on the house. Now, those guys went to great lengths to have a safe house, but most people don't. So when we talk about how this affects people's lives, it probably affects everybody's life who is in an area where a disaster could hit?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah, it does it in the short term or immediate term, you know, it's, it's about your livelihood, the vitality, and the ability for communities to make progress in, in long term change. Right. Even if you're not in that immediate zone affected, we can see it today, you know, high gas prices or not being able to, to get things at the grocery store, those kind of things that, that maybe I'm living upstream or, or a little further away from the disaster zone, but everyone is affected. And then there's those long term things that, that when you do have the disasters that hit we often then take action. And the really difficult thing is, is, is to really look at how this is going to affect people's lives like your children, grandchildren in the future. And that's the, the harder conversation to have. So yeah, those, those storms, they, they, they have an effect and we say, let's, let's quickly put everything back together. Maybe my business is out for nine months or even more so it affects every everybody, even if you're not directly affected. And and we try to really get people to talk about that long term and blue sky action. And you give a great example, the weakest link in the one house, The Last House Standing. What about all the rest of the houses? They're still rebuilding? There was a great article recently that, that it said that the rebuilding efforts in Florida are just getting to a place where the community's starting to feel like a community again. We've gotta avoid those things.

George Siegal:

Yeah. It's a long time to get back to normal and it, it sounds like a lot of what you're doing involves proactive thinking, and we really are a reactive society. We have emergency managers that can put people in motion to clean up after a disaster and help save people and do all these things. But all the work really needs to be done on the front side. So there's less work done on the backside. How do we get to that point?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. You know that is some of the biggest challenges that we have, and, and it's really hard to unpack all of that at once, but how do we get to it? Well, look, I, I mentioned before. About connecting indigenous wisdom and maybe in contemporary science. And that includes local vernacular. What I mean by what a place looks like today, because it's been built that way over maybe a hundred years or 200 years, and you have these beautiful little cottages and, and whatnot. So one of the, one of the big hurdles to get to that long term is that there's some misconceptions that resilience has to look different. And it really doesn't in the house that you mentioned in your film, for example, it, it doesn't really necessarily look different. In fact, we have to create things that are recognizable cost effective and really attainable for, for folks. And once you decode or demystify building resilient capacity, then people can take real action. The other thing about blue sky thinking is, well, I don't need it today. And there's this sort of misconception about the one in a hundred chance storm. And we see that all the time. Well, there was a storm last year, so I don't have to worry in my lifetime. Now I'm gonna leave that for the next person, because the science is telling us it's one in a hundred and that's not the truth. It's the, the actuary science one in a hundred chance storm could happen multiple times in the same year. It's highly unlikely, but it can. And over the course of a 30 year mortgage, there's a 26% chance you're gonna get hit by a storm based on actual area of science. So we have to start to demystify those things, so people say, wait in blue skies, I do have to take action because over the course of my mortgage, here's one in four chance I'm gonna get hit. That gets people thinking about I can build resilient capacity to reduce my risk. And maybe then my children and grandchildren are gonna be really safe or they'll have much more investment into where we're at.

George Siegal:

Well, I think we saw last year Louisiana got hit by four named storms. It just seemed like one after another was hitting them. And I, I think that people, first of all, a lot of people that get wiped out didn't have mortgages. So they didn't really have insurance either. When we covered the wildfires in California, there were people that took insurance off of older items because it was paid for, or because the house had been in, in their family for generations and they figured, well, we don't need it. That's really where you need it the most. And it's, and it, because the cost of rebuilding that house that years ago might have been $50,000, might be 3 million today. And these people, they might never recover.

Illya Azaroff:

Exactly and you know, the code and the, the interesting thing is most of those buildings are built under an older code, which at, in its day was the best thought of the time. But codes have advanced every three years, we have a new code cycle. So if that building is 50 years old, it's built under a code that would not stand up today to the science that we understand today. And, and so you're right. You, you do have to one, make sure that the insurance is placed, but there's also in terms of insurance to look at increased costs of compliance after a disaster. If your older building is, is hit really hard, you actually have to bring it to the current code. And does your policy account for that? It's usually a rider or an extra piece that you, you look at for your insurance company, because increased cost of compliance is sometimes what gets people into real, real trouble. They'll say, oh, my building is now it's worth a million dollars. So I'm ensuring it for a million dollars. And then it, that's not the replacement cost because the increased cost of compliance may bring it to a million, two and $200,000 after a storm for anyone is not a small amount of money nor is 50,000, nor is that 10,000, but you're right on it's we have to keep the insurance in place and look at retrofits and be proactive about that side of it and be cognizant of how you're protecting yourself even when you do have insurance.

George Siegal:

Now, a lot of people don't understand that building codes are the minimum in a lot of places. And that builders actually lobby to keep the standards lower, so they don't have to spend more money. And when I've talked to builders, they say, well, we don't wanna spend all this money building this if nobody's gonna buy it. So it's kind of a cyclical thing of where nothing improves because nobody's, we're, we aren't demanding more and they're not giving us more. I think they build houses knowing that they're not gonna last. What do you find from, from an architect's position?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah, I, I, you know, I think there's, you'll, you'll find the good, the bad and the ugly in any, any of these circumstances. And I've worked with builders that are very advanced in thinking and great partners to get well beyond code. In my opinion, when you, you said it exactly right. Code is an absolute minimum. . We look at projects when we do a project, we're looking at the science and project forward at least 50 or a hundred years. So we understand we're designing for tomorrow. We're never designing for today and you should never buy a house that's oh, this is gonna meet the current standard. And I, and I say that and a lot of people say, well, heat, you're crazy. No, really think about it. If you're looking at storm damage and potentials of today. And then you look at the projections of how quickly things are changing. You really need to be designing for the future. So that's what we typically do. We do this, we look at the science, the best science that we can project forward, and we prepare those houses or those buildings to withstand what the predictions are. And it does have an increased cost, but you have a return on investment that a lot of people don't don't recognize like from the insurance industry if you go beyond code your insurance rate drops significantly. Typically these time type of beyond code design elements, reduce your operations cost, your maintenance, cost, your electricity, all of those things, especially if you're designing to maybe a passive house standard or something like that. And so that's typically what we do is. Code is a benchmark, but it's here. That's the, that's the, the floor. And we reach for the stars for our clients to make sure that one they're gonna sleep well at night. They know their, their, their property has a higher degree of safety, their contents, their family, and the health, safety and welfare of the public is taken care of the highest degree.

George Siegal:

I wish there was a formula that could be created to show the cost of not doing it. And that could mean people coming in to rip you off after the disaster, the disruption of services, the disruption of possibly losing your job, all your valuables being gone. There's no formula for that because a lot of that is you, you, you probably couldn't put a cost to it, but if there was a formula to show people that then that extra 10 or $20,000 in construction, Might be worth it factored into a mortgage, but most people don't believe it's gonna happen to them.

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. Yeah. I, I agree with you. There is, there is a study out there from the national Institute of building sciences and it's, it's really about the return on investment when you're putting resilience resilient measures in, and for every dollar invested, there's a minimum of $4 return for the types of buildings we're talking about. And depending on what you're building, it's up to an $8 return on the $1 investment ,and city and state governments are really looking at this hard because they're floating bonds to make your community more resilient and infrastructure more resilient. And they really are looking at the investment cost and making sure that the dollars are well spent because dollars are always stretched. And, and this is where we get into this, the cost of compliance as a minimum versus you go well beyond and it's not published enough to see that the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the return on investment are so extraordinary that the question becomes, why aren't you doing these things? There is, there is no other solution. If you're looking at it from the pocketbook side, you're looking at it from the government side, that's trying to maintain mission critical functions for the neighborhood. Meaning police, fire, electricity, getting to everybody, or you are a property owner, right? If you take any of those aspects, You may have a different trajectory at it, but when you see all of those things laid out for you, your decisions are, are, are clear. They're crystal clear, and we've had to play that kind of decoding for a lot of folks to get there. Once they understand the pieces of it. And we also understand where their interests lie, there's always a way to talk about our common goals. Because all in the end, all of our goals are the same is safer communities, resilient communities, vibrant communities. So, yeah, I, I think, I think you're right on.

George Siegal:

So explain something to me, for example, Mexico beach. Okay. Category five, hurricane, pretty much levels a large percentage of the homes there, the wind rating of the homes that were there. And, and this was what the code was, was 130 miles an hour, but a lot of those structures were much older, so they weren't even built to withstand that. So now they're rebuilding. And when they changed the building code, I think they upped it to 140 miles an hour. Yet they were hit by a category five hurricane. So even if they rebuild and that hurricane hits again, they're not rebuilding to the standard that will save them. How, why does that happen?

Illya Azaroff:

In the building in the building code, and there are, there are five categories of buildings and the surety rate to, for a disaster for critical facilities is way up there to those standards that you're talking about. And those buildings are built like police, fire, hospitals, all of those have are in the 97 percentile of surety. So they're built to the highest standard. Housing and residential comes right below at 93% surety rate. So they're adopting a code with a better wind, which is great. Now in the engineering for the A S C E seven and 21 for wind and water. As those get, get updated, you will have buildings that will survive even though 150 plus peak gust if they're built to the one 40 standard. It may sound odd, but if you have continuous load path and you have good enforcement, you could have buildings that will withstand that. But I agree with you. I think that if, if we have a code and we can build to that, why aren't we doing that? Noting that the category five hurricane is exceeding, exceeding those, those measures. And a lot of it goes back to critical facilities will survive.. right. Housing is just a step below that and will likely survive. But then the other buildings beyond that, whether it's out buildings or storage and things like that are not to that capacity. So what it comes down to is life safety is, is such that most emergency management tells you to egress when a storm is coming and for hurricanes, you have many days. At least two days when the cone of uncertainty starts to narrow down and you are going to get hit, the state emergency management, or the governor is saying, you gotta go and you've got to go. That's the way it goes, but it's also nice to see the other side of it. Here's the other side of it is you just illuminated something great. If you're a homeowner or someone who's getting a house built or retrofitted. You know that the new state building code says 140 miles an hour, you know, that you can build to 150. You can see what the cost is. You can see what the insurance savings is if you go to a higher compliance and then make a judgment there. Because again, you're, they've elevated the floor to a minimum standard is a higher minimum standard. But back to our earlier conversation, you can go higher. That's what we've done in our, we did a house similar to the one from Mexico beach here in New York city under the, build it back program. And we convinced the federal government and the city we'll take the money that you're going to give normally. And we want to work with our client and go ahead and do a new house, a hurricane strong, all hazard house, using the same funding. Plus a little bit more from the owner. If she agrees to pay. To replace the house that will withstand high category wins, category five hurricanes. It has a tornado safe room capability to all of those pieces, to it, to demonstrate to the federal government and the city and the state we can do it better. As architects, engineers, builders, we, we can use the money more effectively. And we did that and we ended up changing a lot of the policies for New York state and the federal policy and working with just finished working with HUD on writing the minimum standards by which you rebuild after disaster. Those should be released here shortly, but yeah, and I know that's a long-winded answer, but it's, it's really critical what you're talking about because you don't have to go for the minimum. Those those maps are really based on the category of, and type of building that you have noting that those higher wind speeds are definitely going to be for the critical facilities and going to the 140 is still gonna save a lot more lives and property.

George Siegal:

Sure. I would think everybody in Florida would wanna build to the south Florida standard, which is 170. It just seems like it makes more sense. Yet here where I live in Tampa, if you walk across the street from where I live, they put up a lot of houses right on the water. And some of them are all block. I would say half of them are doing wood on the second floor. And I called one of the builders and I said, why, why are you doing that? Why are you not just building block houses there? And he said, well, the person building it, the, the homeowner didn't want to spend the money. And they liked the architectural plan that didn't allow for having block on the second floor. So they have all those bump outs and design features. You have to use wood, aren't we missing an opportunity there because Tampa's a bullseye for a major hurricane?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. It, it depends on the design. Right? So you can build federal Alliance to safe homes down in Florida than where you're at as great guides about building hurricane structures in the residential area and in, in residential construction and continuous load path and how you seal the building and how you build every component and aspect of it. If they work in concert as a family, you have a very strong building that can withstand these high storms and direct hits. Now back to your, your example. So with the block and if I'm understanding correctly that you've got sort of the, the envelope, at least the four walls. Or block, and then you have some outcroppings and maybe some bumpouts and things that are all frame frame.

George Siegal:

Or an entire second floor. I mean, you do see some of the bump outs, I'm talking an entire second floor of wood in some of these instances.

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. So, so there, I do think you're missing, missing you know, you can mix and match, you can have continuous load path, but in that case, I would, I would really encourage that, that homeowner is to really think about total enclosure and your continuous load path. So bringing up either ICF, insulated, concrete form work to the roof itself, and then the roof being tied stringently down to the rest of the building is great. Some of the outcroppings and some of the windows and things like that still are gonna be your weakest link. But those also can be hurricane rated, as you know, especially since you're, you're, you're located in Florida. Miami-Dade and, and that code that adopted additional code leads the country. It's and, and so you're not far off from being able to say, let's just take a look down just, just down south a little bit further, and they have it going the right direction. So I do think that that in that case, from what it sounds, I would have to see the whole plans. But what you're describing is there is a missed opportunity there, the flying debris, unless the building is over 33 feet. So this is some I'm geeking out on Science. So flying debris below 33 feet, along with high wind speed and wind pre the wind pressure is the, is the most vulnerable. Those are your vulnerabilities. When you go over 33 feet high, the impact of debris gets much, much less. So in fact, when you're designing higher buildings like designing a six story building the lower three stories have a different construction methodology than the upper three stories in that case, because of the, you're only really going at wind pressure and speed and less about impact. And so your windows change, some of the other things change, even though it's all continuous load path. So there are some things there you could get at, but I, it sounds like a two story building that you're still well below 33 feet.

George Siegal:

Yeah. These aren't track homes either. I mean, these aren't, you know, this isn't a, a KB cookie cutter house. These are houses that people are probably spending five to 10 million on. Yeah. So when you see them saving money for a design that ends up not looking that much better, it just makes me scratch my head and go crazy. I just, I don't get it.

Illya Azaroff:

I'm I'm with you there. I, especially, if you, if you've had that kind of a budget. There is no reason that you don't exceed code and, and look at if you're coming in from property value, it's already been shown that, that a building that has higher ratings towards resilience, wind water, all of those things has a higher value in the marketplace. So there's, there's no reason that you don't do it. Even in that aspect, let alone the insurance reduction and all the other things.

George Siegal:

Now, a lot of times in disaster, It's the people that have the least seems to lose the most because people that have less expensive homes, maybe they're not built well yet habitat for humanity has a lot of homes that survive disasters because of the attention to detail they put in. And those aren't expensive homes. So how do we make this more equitable so people that can't afford to lose anything, stop losing everything?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. You know, that's, that's really great. And habitat for humanity is a great way to look at it. And I, I said, I said this before, there's, there's, there's a couple of things that we all have the same goal, the same goal, building resilience and having health, safety and welfare of the public in mind. And from our standpoint, making it recognizable. So it doesn't look different, making it attainable, so, and, and cost effective. Those are the three, three elements. So when you think about that, we really need to decode for people that, that resilience is a, is a, is an X factor. It's out of my reach, that it is really almost like a right for everyone to be able to sleep comfortably in your house, safety and safe and secure. And without these thoughts of, oh my gosh, what's gonna happen. When the weather turns bad. Right. So that's, that's one, one piece of it. The other thing that I think is really necessary is that the equity piece, you're right on the people who get hit the worst are the frontline communities. My office, as you mentioned, in, in my bio, we're working with the frontline communities all throughout the Caribbean, out in Hawaii. A lot of places, the economic circumstances and the multi-generation home ownership are sort of a mismatch. One, you've got the multi-generational ownership, as I said, so they don't carry a lot of insurance because as you said before, we own this place, we don't really need to carry insurance anymore. We don't have a mortgage, but then on the other side of it, they're in the most vulnerable place because of sea level rise, the exposure to storms and they're hit quite often. And the services and investment from the larger stakes of the community or the government is generally less in those places. And so how do we get to that? You see the reverse in Miami where the sort of lower income housing neighborhoods or the service industry neighborhoods that were much more inland are now being bought up by the wealthy and displacing people at the coastline. In other places, these frontline communities, it's just the opposite of that model in that insurance rates are going up. And a lot of the property values are dropping. There's a great study by first street that really looked at property values under blue skies with a recognition that risk is rising. So one, governments cities and investors are really understanding, wow, those are risky properties. I don't really wanna invest there. So as that goes down, if I have a five, a multi-generational house, I've been here for five generations, a hundred years, I've owned this house. It was worth this, and now it keeps going down. Why is that? I'm on the beach. I'm on the waterfront and the equity begins to drop. And then where do people move? If you do have to have retreat and move away from the coast because of these circumstances, there are no places to move because affordability of housing and the stress of not enough housing in the United States is at hand. So you've got huge communities that are between a rock and a hard place. And every year the storms are coming closer and closer or they're hitting these communities. So I, I think the solution is, is this is a national conversation where we really need to understand what Upland communities or receiver communities need to look like, in preparation for moving people from the coast, or you have other equity, equity supporting issues where you have buyout programs or support programs that really invest in infrastructure to push back the timeline of criticality, where people will lose their homes. We need to invest in one way or the other either we're going to fight or flight. If we're going to fight, then we need to invest in these communities that are at the front line. If it's flight, then we need to invest in the communities that are just behind the front line to receive those folks and make them neighbors.

George Siegal:

After a disaster, should the government be able to step in and say, you can't rebuild there. If we have areas that we know are just prone to getting wiped out, who's responsible for saying, okay, that's it. We, we can't keep doing this?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah, I, you know, the government should step in and do that. And usually it's a state or a municipality, their planning department their flood plain managers. They should be creating policy that says you can't rebuild here. And the re and you know, we've said many of the reasons here on your program. And there are many, many more it's about life safety. A lot of people don't wanna hear that, Hey, you can't live there anymore because of all of these circumstances. And I'm I, and I, I hear that a lot. But how much is one life worth? Health, safety and welfare of a community comes before anything. In my mind as an architect, that's our, our oath. So when we, we, we have to have this, this conversation where we zone differently, the uses at the waterfront are different. Maybe you can work at the waterfront, but you can't live at the waterfront. That's been something that the Japanese have done since their disaster in 2011, had a great Toku disaster, hundreds of communities they've moved back from the coast, but the working waterfront stays the same. So there are models out there that do it, but I, but yes, the government one level of, or the other should be telling folks you can no longer live there, but there's the, the, the trick, how do we then take the equity issue? Okay. I can't live there. So where do I live and who, who pays me for my house? So it's a very complex issue, but I, I truly believe that either we are going to be forcing forced to leave these areas because of climate and impacts and more disasters and that's uncomfortable and tragic, or we take the blue skies thinking and say, here are the new zones. Here are the areas where we should be moving people to. And that for some people they're not gonna like that, hearing that on your show, but that's the truth. People need to hear that.

George Siegal:

Well, I think most people live with that blue sky mentality. It's like, you don't get in your car and, and go to the store thinking you're gonna get in a car accident. You assume that you're gonna be safe yet. The amount of money you put into your house is a hundred times more, a thousand times more than what you paid for that car. And I would tell you, most people probably know the safety features of their car more than they know the safety features of their house.

Illya Azaroff:

That's true. that's really true. So what's the equivalent of a, of a seatbelt for the car. Right. And, and maybe it is storm shutters and better windows, those types of things. But yeah, you're right.

George Siegal:

Moore Oklahoma, which we featured in our film. They raised the building code after eight tornadoes had, had virtually wiped out areas of the town time and again, and what they did was they made 'em put in better garages. They made 'em do different bracketing on the, the roofs. Ultimately a builder told us it was the equivalent, the improvement that they made with the new code was equivalent to granite countertops in the house. And he said, if there wasn't a code, most people still would not be doing it. So it seems like I don't know what the wake up call has to be. If you have tornado after tornado pummeling you, to me, the first one was a wake up call. Yeah. Why are they not, I just don't know what it's gonna take. So I'm curious when you look at what your obstacles are, the greatest obstacles that you face because you get it, the people you work with, get it. How do we get us people out in the world to get it?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. You know, so there's a, there's a lot of obstacles. So I'll, I'll outline a few of them that we've run into. Some of them are structural in government. Some of them there's a lack of code adoption or in the case of code adoption, there's lack of enforcement or funding for proper enforcement during construction. Some of these hurdles, I don't call 'em obstacles because really it's, it's really hurdles. We can get over all these. Some come from the community themselves. There's a kind of a feeling of helplessness to community members. When the issue is, is such a large issue, the scale is too big or the general lack of knowledge surrounding what the near future impacts may, may hold for my community. Sometimes there's just a general fear of what the future holds for the community and my kids what the cost might be to get there. So those are some of those some of the, the, the enormity of the problems sometimes exist in the false narrative of time. As I mentioned before, the one in a hundred storm, you know, so those are some of the hurdles that we have. And then of course, financing and funding, right? With, with whatever programs there are now, how do we get over those? I think there's, there's a lot of ways to do that and we've discussed some here, but we have to recognize the difference between bandaids and major surgery. And, and what I mean by that is that that understanding the cost effective nature. To the benefit of investing in long term, long term measures is, is really important. So for example, here, we, after, after hurricane Sandy, we elevated a lot of homes, but that's a bandaid that doesn't elevate the roads. It doesn't get fire and, and police rescue to uterine flooding all the infrastructure. It it's a band-aid. And when we elevated the homes, the homes were built under, say a 1970s code or a 1980s code. We didn't reinforce the houses. We just elevated the home. When that next storm comes, it doesn't ha meet the higher wind speed. So that's a bandaid. So for major surgery you, you really get back to this idea of under the blue skies thinking if you don't feel the urgency, what would take you to get there? The major surgery might be the entire waterfront needs to be addressed. The entirety of systems that make a community great need to be addressed. These really large scale pieces. Sometimes it's levies. Sometimes it's it's new flood park areas that are developed. Some of it is, is elevating roadways and trains and infrastructure to keep them out of flood zones, like major, major, major surgery. So I think there's a, there's a lot of, of elements on those both ends that could help us get to a place where we begin to solve these problems. The recognition of, of short-term goals, long-term goals, immediate bandaids versus long-term surgery. And then what you can do yourself as a homeowner versus what you have wait for for the government.

George Siegal:

I'm not a big government in our lives guy where I want them telling us what to do and, and stuff. But I would think if we could incentivize people, you know, I, I, if we found out in Moore, you could get a storm seller as low as $3,500 and you could get it at a low interest rate, but most people didn't have them. And to me, that's amazing because yeah, that's huge. Tornadoes are terrifying. And, and in other areas you see, is there a way maybe to the government incentives or insurance company incentives to retrofit your house, to get an inspection, to find out what your weakest link is just to make sure everybody that should have flood insurance, which is everybody. Brock Long told us in the film, if it rains where your house is, it can flood. And people from hurricane Harvey learned the hard way that they could have had flood insurance, very affordably. Are we not getting the message out? We need to incentivize.

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah, no, there, and there are incentives out there and that's that that's, that's right on. There are so many incentives out there. It's just a matter of communication and who you, and, and how you get it to, to the folks that really need it. So IBHS is, is part of the insurance industry. They have a program called fortified and you probably heard about that from past guests. That's an incentive, huge incentive. For, for building that protects you, but lowers your insurance like crazy. I mentioned before the Federal Alliance of Safe Homes, they're, they're building to resilience, housing guide gives you all of these pieces of your house. And these small improvements that you make does if every one of them has a corollary for insurance, but the incentives that you're, you're talking about that might come from city state or, or the federal side, some of those are just rolling out now. There's, there's a lot of incentives in current federal funding for building new resilient housing across the United States. There's also a retrofit of existing housing to meet current energy and resilient standards. That's also out there on the table. A lot of money out there. We say money on the street. Well, the money on the street, but how do we get that information to the homeowner to say he, or she can say, oh my gosh, I had no idea. In Florida there's all these really amazing incentives for solar. You can write in and you can actually get benefit of, of getting solar and getting incentives for solar. Same with rainwater capture in lot, lot of parts of the country. So just for a moment, if people think about a community wide. If I get an incentive to put solar on, that means if there's a power outage, I still have power that's resilience. If I'm harvesting rainwater and we're in a zone where there's a lot of rain and potential flooding, if all my neighbors do it, the capacity of the community to hold more water off of the street increases. So therefore the entire community stays a little drier even during rain events. So all of those incentives and they're out there almost in every state, you're going to find them. There's just a lack of communication. There is no clearinghouse that I know of that really gives you these. These, this ability to, to clear things out .The house I mentioned Diane's house that I mentioned before. For example, we did all of the things we could and her insurance dropped 83%. Wow. Her annual insurance, 83%. That's flood insurance, her wind, all of her, her all of her insurance dropped. So those incentives are out there and the return on investment is out there. And I don't know what the, the answer is in terms of communication, should it be at the point of sale, right? There's, there's a couple of things that I, that you can see legislation in, in after hurricane Harvey. Great example, you brought up in Houston and across Texas. Now at the point of sale, your risk profile for flooding is included in your, in, at the point of sale. So you know that this house has a tendency to flood, or it doesn't, and that is part of, of of legislation that's going through New York state, things like that. At that point of sale, what I would suggest is where are the incentives to reduce your risk profile? That should be at the point of sale. If economy drives the country through through property and, and through real estate, we're starting to get the message out what your risk is now, how do we get to the same property owner or purchaser or seller, what my incentives are or available to me to improve the property.. If we could do that at that point of sale, I tell you we would have a huge change in this country.

George Siegal:

You just hit on it right there. And, and you know, maybe I'm choosing the wrong people, but in when I'm on LinkedIn or when I'm around people like you, that are in the industry that you know about all this stuff, you guys are experts. You all speak the same language, but realtors don't tell their customers about that. Our realtor didn't tell any place I've ever been. They never told me anything about those risks. I've never had a builder tell me, oh, for $10,000 more, I can actually have your house survive. I always see them doing the minimum. And I think that's where it has to start. So my feeling is the homeowners have to demand more. We have to put our feet down and say enough of this crap that you're building for us. The problem is in a competitive market, if I start stomping my feet and doing that, they're just gonna take the next guy and say, okay, go, go on your way there, buddy. We don't need you.

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. Yeah, you're right. And George, yeah, maybe that's where it does have to start. Is that the knowledge that I can have a better house and it's only gonna cost me a little bit more people should be stomping their feet. We don't have to live through these things the way that we're living through them now. And one way or the other either people are gonna stomp their feet or the unfortunate thing is where to keep seeing what happens and what happens and what happens that, that in a constant state of recovery, So thinking about all those storms last year, all those communities are in the state of recovery. It's 10 years since hurricane Sandy, New York, we have not finished recovering, go back to Katrina, have, have those neighborhoods finished recovering? No, we're in a constant state of recovery, so there's gotta be a way that the common homeowner and every voter out there really understands in your own community the power lies with change and the change that we bring to this, whether it's design professionals that can give you the information or you as a homeowner, that's knowledgeable or investor, that's knowledgeable to say, wait, I need it better. And so whether the government mandates it or we demand it one way or the other we've gotta get there is this we're in a, in a place where it's untenable to where we're at.

George Siegal:

I think it's a lot like the medical profession. People always say the money's in the medicine, not in the cure and in the construction industry, it seems like it's the same thing. The building. Yeah. And fixing industry is so huge that who does it take to, to just say, okay, enough, we're tired of rebuilding. Let's get it right the first time. Yeah.

Illya Azaroff:

I would love to know how that could happen. I, I work every day at this and I've testified to members of Congress. I've done that kind of advocacy. And in the end what I found is just like the house that you, you had in your film. And the house that we did for Diane and the house that we're, we're doing another house similar that's well beyond that's in construction now. Those examples, these touchstones, that people can see touch, understand that they really work. Those examples really are the best thing that move the meter for locals. And for government at least at the state and local level. And I, so I think that we do need more of these examples and it's almost like doing the first, the first model of a car, a testing you know, simulation or the first prototype. We've done lots of these now. And everybody's, there's lots of 'em across the country. At some point, there will be a tipping point where people really understand, I want that kind of a building or that kind of a structure that kind of safety and security it's gonna happen. Unfortunately, it's not gonna happen fast enough. It's not gonna happen this season next season, maybe the next season, who knows, we got a lot more pain to come.

George Siegal:

I know, I think it's gonna be a rough hurricane season. And I think we're gonna have a lot of sad stories that, that pop up. You know, you, you are such a forward thinking guy in what you do and looking ahead, for people out there that have an idea or a thought to invent something or fix a problem, what would you tell people to do so they're not just sitting at home, keeping it to themselves?

Illya Azaroff:

Yeah. Well, that's, that's a great question. I think there's, there's some good piece of advice I have for you. One is that you need to talk about this with your community. You, you always understand there's a series of hurdles that we outline, but first and foremost, you find people that are like-minded or in the same situation you are that's that's that's. Under the blue skies people don't really feel the urgency is we've outlined in adapting their communities. The future that alone is the folly because the imminent risk that you have this year, the next year is really the danger to the health, safety welfare of your total community. So recognizing you're not alone finding like-minded folks to begin to make, make some efforts and change and in pieces. The other thing is how do you, how you talk to people about this within your communities? It's always, always something pretty important as well. Approaching communication really involves all stakeholders. So sometimes you think about. Oh, well, we're the homeowners association, but we don't really wanna talk to the, we don't need to talk to the business folks or the government folks or the emergency managers. Nope. Communication with all stakeholders is important from the government, from the business, the families, the community, all of those things. Those organizations after hurricane Harvey went to Houston to run city SIM city, some workshops. And should we be inviting big oil? And I said, yes, you're inviting big oil because they're the largest employer. And when big oil. Joined us. They said, yeah, we wanna make sure the city is safe, secure, and resilient. So our, the people who work for us and their family, Can always come to work and go home. And so everybody has a stake in this. So that's, that's an example understanding the different approaches. And I mentioned this before their interest in adaptation resilience might come from a different trajectory. They come from an angle, maybe for business, it could be something about the, the continuity of business. So I want resilience. So my business doesn't shut down. Right? Some of it could be the insurance or financial risk, some homeowners it's life safety, maybe memory of place. I don't wanna lose all these great things of my life and past. Governing bodies, it's about the infrastructure, sometimes the inter operation to deliver mission critical functions. So they're gonna come at it from a different standpoint. And so there's another way of talking to those folks, but in each of these cases, you need to have flexibility to talk and to plan for adaptation collectively, and it's necessary because, and then this is a really big thing that you, we gotta understand is ultimately everyone's goals are the same. A vital community is a resilient community and a resilient community is an adaptive community. If we can achieve those and understand that every stakeholder has that same goal, we're gonna get there. Then the blue skies think it can happen. The, the climate action planning can take place. Investment and it can take place. Bonds can be floated, or you can understand going to your local store of what you need to do for storm shutters. What your upgrades are contacting a local builder or a design professional. How do I get to these upgrades? And then you're ready for those future storms and disasters, the best you can be.

George Siegal:

I think we need to clone you. That's the answer. We need a lot more people that think like you to get this done. How do people get in touch with you? How do they follow you on social media? What's the best way to reach out?

Illya Azaroff:

If you wanna reach out, you know, you can find me it's it's, we're at plus lab global.com. That's the website, but you can find me on social media, you know, you can, you can follow me by on Twitter. I'm at plus lab on Facebook, it's all, all with plus lab is one word, or you can find me on LinkedIn, just by my name, Illya Azaroff. So you can find me in any of those locations and I'd be happy to respond to any questions. Or share experiences. We share as much of the materials that we make because you can't do this alone seriously. I I'm one architect with a small office and billions of people, millions across the us need this kind of, of work. And so we share with everybody. Everybody, we give it away. You have to give away knowledge to get this done.

George Siegal:

Fantastic. Well, this will all be in the show notes, Illya, and it was a, it was a challenge getting, working into your schedule, but man, it was worth it because you are so knowledgeable and I, I really appreciate your time today.

Illya Azaroff:

Thanks George. I, I appreciate the opportunity. It's it's really great to talk to you and, and, and I hope together you and me, we can make, make an impact.

George Siegal:

We'll we'll keep trying. Thanks. I appreciate you joining me on today's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Hopefully there's a lot of great information that you took away from it and you use it to apply to where you live and how your home is built. Or if you're building a house or moving somewhere, put the information in on the front side and let's avoid all the damage that keeps happening because we didn't do anything to prepare. And the show notes are ways that you can get ahold of Illya. I hope you take advantage of that. I also have a contact form there that you can reach out. And if you have any questions about today's episode or ideas for future guests, I would always love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.