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October 23, 2008   Email to Friend 

Wendy Rose
(813) 675-1045
October 23, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) will build The Insurance Center for Building Safety Research in Chester County, S.C., President & CEO Julie Rochman announced in a news conference recently. Alfa Insurance is supporting this project.

The primary purpose of this $27 million multi-peril research facility - funded entirely by insurers and reinsurers - is to identify effective methods of minimizing risk and loss to homes, businesses, and communities resulting from natural disasters. The research center will have the ability to subject 1,800-square-foot, two-story homes and light commercial construction to a variety of hazards, including realistic Category 3 hurricanes, wind-blown fire (mimicking wildfire embers), and hailstorms.

"Chester County, South Carolina, as it turns out, is the perfect location for our research facility," Ms. Rochman said. "We had very specific needs because our lab will be a unique, world-class operation, and it was not easy to find the right home. We couldn't be happier with the results of our long search."

IBHS purchased 90 acres of land along South Carolina Highway 99 from Chester County. The organization evaluated many sites in several states but chose this location because it fulfilled key search criteria, including:

--a location more than 100 miles from the coast with a very mild climate to accommodate year-round testing and to preserve the "inventory" of structures kept on the campus;

--more than 35 acres for a campus encompassing a laboratory, an office building, and a "street" on which to park structures between tests;

--no height restrictions precluding structures 80-feet tall;

--sufficient natural noise reduction features or land upon which artificial noise barriers could be constructed;

--a location directly adjacent to a 100kVpower transmission line carrying electricity generated by renewable resources, and able to house a transformer/sub-station;

--a site close to other centers of excellence, academic institutions and relevant business sectors, and relatively close to a major interstate with airport access.

"We look forward to being a supportive partner in making IBHS a premiere source for quality information that improves building and home safety," said R. Carlisle Roddey, Chester County Supervisor. "The leadership of Chester County remains committed to economic development to encourage new industry investment for the purpose of improving each citizen's prosperity and overall quality of life."

Odell Associates Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C., has been chosen to lead the architectural/engineering design team for the state-of-the-art facility, which should be complete in 2010.

A two-track research program will allow IBHS to address catastrophes, as well as more isolated, but expensive, maintenance-related issues like plumbing system failure and interior fires. The research findings will be used in aggressive consumer education and advocacy campaigns, and to supply vital data for developing public policies in areas such as building codes and land use.

IBHS has been a leader in using building science to develop real-world approaches to reduce the risks posed by natural disasters and other perils. Events in recent years, including tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires, have given IBHS researchers opportunities for field work, during which they have learned much about how to better engineer structures against certain risks. There remain, however, knowledge gaps that can be filled only with testing in controlled environments, which the new research center will provide.

The following founding insurance companies and organizations that have made this new facility possible through their significant financial contributions: Alfa Mutual Insurance Company, American Agricultural Insurance Company, American Family Insurance, American Insurance Association, American Modern, Amica Mutual Insurance Company, The Andover Companies, Auto Club Insurance Association, Auto-Owners Insurance Group, Bankers Insurance Group, Benfield, California State Automobile Association, COUNTRY Financial, Farm Bureau Mutual Group, Farmers Insurance Group, Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Group, The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, Holborn Corporation, HomeWise Insurance Company, IPCRe Limited, Island Insurance Company, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Main Street America Group, MetLife Auto & Home, Munich Reinsurance America, Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Nationwide Insurance, The Norfolk & Dedham Group, OneBeacon Insurance Group, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Swiss Re America, Travelers, USAA, WeatherPredict Consulting Inc. (an affiliate of RenaissanceRe), West Bend Mutual Insurance Company and Western Iowa Mutual Insurance Association.

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