The journey of humankind is very interesting. Human beings lived in caves for protection against wild animals and calamities. Then in the modern period, they constructed buildings for protection against natural disasters. Challenges changed with time, and so did the priorities, but the struggle for safe living is still advancing towards the standards of fineness. Though the advancement in human life has eased the living style, still, nature has an ultimate say.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, high winds, etc., can damage human constructions. Though some of them are predictable due to the technology, they are unavoidable. The usual targets that face the impacts of these disasters are buildings and constructions. Hence, to sustain against these natural disasters, high standards of protection were required. To fulfil this necessity, Knockout Inspections started its endeavour – FORTIFIED Home Program.
Knockout Inspections opened in August 2013 in Fairhope, AL. It consists of licensed Certified Master Inspectors, Home Inspectors, and FORTIFIED Evaluators. The company offers standard home inspections, bank loan draw inspections, 203K loan inspections, and FORTIFIED evaluations. The company is focused on its mission to ensure safe living one home at a time. It uses technology in the field to generate reports, documents the condition of the property through photos and videos, and ensures that standards are met to safe living conditions.
Brief About the FORTIFIED Program
The FORTIFIED program is a set of standards to build, re-roof, or retrofit a home to better protect against severe weather such as hurricanes, high winds, hail, and even tornadoes. The FORTIFIED program is a product of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). They are a non-profit organization created to research and generate safer living standards for residential and commercial homes across the US. IBHS helps prevent avoidable suffering, strengthens homes and businesses, informs the insurance industry, and supports thriving communities.
They do this through research of existing standards and provide solutions for improvement to better protect against severe weather. These insights and solutions influence building codes and standards, resulting in better and stronger building practices. To execute their program, IBHS created a training curriculum to create FORTIFIED Evaluators that are the eyes, ears, and educators in the field.
The FORTIFIED program (also known as fortification) consists of an evaluation of the building, retrofitting, or re-roofing of a home, an application submitted to IBHS, an audit conducted by IBHS to ensure all FORTIFIED standards have been properly met, and a designation of a certificate to the property address. The designation is then valid for five years. It will need to be renewed with a re-evaluation of the current condition of the roof to ensure it has five more years of life. Also, it ensures no additions or repairs have been made that would compromise the integrity of the FORTIFIED standards.
The Three Layers of Protection
There are three FORTIFIED designations with their own set of standards that provide different levels of protection to the property: FORTIFIED Roof, FORTIFIED Silver, and FORTIFIED Gold. FORTIFIED Roof is the lowest standard of fortification; it consists of a sealed roof deck to prevent water intrusion into the home. FORTIFIED Silver takes the standards of the FORTIFIED Roof and adds impact protection to all openings of the home, such as windows and doors.
It also requires porch and chimney strapping as well as overhangs and gable bracing. FORTIFIED Gold is the highest level of fortification that is reserved for new construction or complete gutting and remodelling of a home. It takes the standards from the FORTIFIED Roof and FORTIFIED Silver and adds a continuous load path requirement. This fortification also requires an engineer to be involved through the entirety of the evaluation process.
Each set of standards requires a specific application to be submitted to the IBHS to be audited before they issue a designation certificate. At Knockout, a team of in-field FORTIFIED evaluators works with licensed roofers and builders to educate the FORTIFIED standards and ensure all standards are properly met. On the other hand, a team of in-house evaluators compile photo documentation from the roofer and/or builder during the entire process of the construction to prepare a FORTIFIED designation application.
Although the company’s home office is located in southern Alabama, its team is licensed to conduct FORTIFIED evaluations throughout the US and has issued designations to homes in North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, and many more. In some states, legislation is passed that requires homeowners to receive a discount for the fortification of their homes. For example, homeowners with a FORTIFIED built home can receive a discount of up to 55% on their homeowner’s insurance premium. The only requirement is to have a valid FORTIFIED certificate which must be provided to the insurance company.
When hurricane Sally hit the gulf coast, over 16,000 homes were built or roofed to the FORTIFIED standard. Of those 16,000, there were roughly 500 homes that received any damages, much of which were due to fallen trees by the impact of the lingering storm. The FORTIFIED standards have further proven their effectiveness in the most recent hurricane that hit Louisiana, hurricane Ida. Although the FORTIFIED program was not as profound in that area, many are choosing to rebuild their homes to the FORTIFIED standards for a more resilient home after witnessing homes that were FORTIFIED.
Brain Behind the Story
Nathan Lippincott, the Founder of Knockout Inspections, came from a long line of contractors and builders and was a framer in his early career. He has built many homes, even several of his own for his family, and knew the ins and outs of the construction industry. The last few homes he framed were actually built to the FORTIFIED standard when it was still in its infancy. In 2013, he decided to leave the construction industry to pursue his dreams of entrepreneurship by becoming a Home Inspector.
Knockout Home Inspections started as a one-person show. He grew the company by visiting many local real estate offices and making connections with realtors. Many of the custom new construction homes that he inspected were built to the Gold FORTIFIED standards. One of the requirements to become a FORTIFIED Evaluator is to be a licensed home inspector for several years, so Nathan became a certified FORTIFIED Evaluator in 2015.
In 2016, Strengthen Alabama Homes was created – a state program that offers a grant to re-roof houses to the FORTIFIED standard, and over 9,000 people applied for this program. Nathan was one of the approved FORTIFIED Evaluators through the state, and he began to grow his company to meet the demand. At the end of 2016, the city of Fairhope adopted the FORTIFIED standards as their city code requirement.
As of now, several cities within Baldwin and Mobile Counties require the FORTIFIED standards as their city code for all new constructions. Nathan said, “Knockout Inspections continues to grow beyond our local area as we travel to North Alabama and beyond our state area as we expand the FORTIFIED program.”
The Pandemic Tale – An Opportunity in Adversity
Talking about the pandemic days, Nathan shared, “We were considered essential during the pandemic, so we did not face many challenges or obstacles. After we took a direct hit from hurricane Sally, it was essential that we were able to work alongside roofers and evaluators for the fortification process as well as continue to conduct inspections for those who were misplaced or were concerned about damages to their home.”
Knockout ensured the safety of its employees during the beginning of the pandemic by offering its in-house staff a work-from-home option; however, its in-field employees continued to go to their scheduled stops and social distance when necessary. When so many suffered through the pandemic, Knockout Inspections thrived and had its best year of business.
Knockout is continuing to educate, grow, and expand the FORTIFIED program. Nathan said, “We have seen great success in the standards and truly believe that FORTIFIED is the future for safer, more resilient construction.” The company recently had an update issued by IBHS that ensures even greater protection by adhering to the 2018 IRC Code. Knockout’s goal this year was to issue 3,000 FORTIFIED certificates to homeowners. Not only did the company meet its goal, but it has also surpassed it. In 2022, the management plans to issue 5,000 FORTIFIED designation certificates.
Sunni Lippincott, the Certified Professional Life Coach, advised the young entrepreneurs, “I always recommend taking the risk. You’ll never feel 100% ready, and you’ll never be good at something until you try. It all starts with the first step – make sure you’re licensed. Leadership is not a title; it’s a mindset.”
“We offer standard home inspections, Bank Loan Draw Inspections, 203K loan inspections, and FORTIFIED evaluations.”