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Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is an example of the need for upfront investment in resilient and sustainable infrastructure all across the U.S.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 4, 2018

Multidisciplinary group meets in Puerto Rico to discuss solutions for rebuilding infrastructure with resilience and sustainability in mind

San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 5, 2018 – Zurich Insurance convened a multidisciplinary group in Puerto Rico today to evaluate what is needed to rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and what new ideas can translate to the issues of rebuilding infrastructure all across the country. Conceived and hosted by Zurich Insurance, the roundtable group represented engineering, sustainability, private investment, government, construction and urban planners.

“Puerto Rican infrastructure is an example of what is happening across the country due to a lack of infrastructure investment on the front end to create more resilient power systems, bridges, roads and water systems,” said Paul Horgan, head of North America Commercial Insurance for Zurich North America and the moderator of the event. “Our objective is to facilitate a conversation on the complex set of challenges in Puerto Rico with an emphasis on rebuilding to a standard that can better sustain major catastrophes in the future.”

Zurich released a paper today on Rebuilding Infrastructure: The Need for Sustainable and Resilient Solutions, which emphasizes the need for sustainable planning and resilient building as severity and frequency of severe weather events are increasing. “In the aftermath of a disaster, there is rarely the time to think beyond recovery,” the paper states. “When in reality we should be taking the time – in advance – to make sure the lights will stay on when the next disaster strikes.”

Recent studies indicate every dollar spent rebuilding or improving buildings to meet stronger building codes saves four dollars in damages. Similar investment returns could be realized when building a more resilient infrastructure.

Following a morning tour to Caguas, to view a FEMA bridge reconstruction, and to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) power station in San Juan-Monacillos, the group participated in two-hour discussion at the InterContinental Hotel in Carolina. In front of a gathering of local business, civic and government representatives, the discussion focused on the following:

  • rebuilding beyond disaster recovery,
  • the condition of Puerto Rico infrastructure before and after the hurricanes,
  • sustainable infrastructure and rebuilding to resilient standards, and
  • how to pay for it.

Roundtable participants were:

  • Carol Haddock - Board of Directors for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Director of Public Works and Engineering for the City of Houston
  • Tom Lewis, PE, JD - Advisor to the Zofnass Program at Harvard (ZPH) and its Sustainable Infrastructure Advisory Board (SIAB), in addition to being the president for Louis Berger’s U.S.
  • Josen Rossi - Chairman of the Board and CEO, Aireko Enterprises and founder and Chairman of the Board of the Puerto Rico Institute for Competitiveness and Sustainable Economy (ICSE-PR)
  • Malu Blazquez - Ex. Director, Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission
  • Mike Obhof - Infrastructure Investment Group, Goldman Sachs and Board Member of Autopistas Metropolitanas de Puerto Rico (the main private toll road operator in Puerto Rico)
  • Ing. José Pepe Izquierdo - Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Buildings Authority of Puerto Rico
  • José Joaquín “Joaco” Villamil - Economist and chairman of Estudios Técnicos Inc.
  • Robert Murray - Global Head of Surety, Zurich Insurance

This event is held at a critical time when a deteriorating infrastructure is hurting U.S businesses. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure an overall rating of D+ for the condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, dams, ports and other vital areas. They estimated by 2020, “aging and unreliable” infrastructure will cost American businesses $1.2 trillion. For example, U.S. businesses spend an extra $27 billion annually in additional freight costs due to poor conditions of roads and other surface transportation infrastructure.

Zurich is a global commercial insurance company trusted by ninety percent of the Fortune 500 and other leading businesses, all of which depend on a strong, reliable infrastructure. Zurich is among the largest insurance providers to the construction industry and one of the largest providers of Surety bonds for major infrastructure construction projects around the in the world.

“The state of infrastructure in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes and the crumbling state of infrastructure elsewhere in the U. S. not only impacts the quality of life for every individual, it also has a major economic impact on the day to day operations of businesses,” added Horgan, who is a member of the Executive Council on Infrastructure for the Bipartisan Policy Center and a member of Partnership for New York City.

In May, Zurich will sponsor Infrastructure Week bringing together organizations and people from across the nation to highlight the issue of aging infrastructure and to encourage policymakers to invest in the projects, technologies, and policies necessary to make America competitive, prosperous, and safe.

“The insurance industry has a key role to play in seeking solutions for rebuilding infrastructure,” Horgan said. “We won’t be able to truly improve the infrastructure in Puerto Rico and in the United States overall unless we encourage collaboration between all stakeholders and continue to hold conversations like we are having today.”

About Zurich

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With about 53,000 employees, it provides a wide range of property and casualty, and life insurance products and services in more than 210 countries and territories. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, as well as multinational corporations. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX. Further information about rel="noopener noreferrer" Zurich is available at www.zurich.com.

In North America, Zurich is a leading commercial property-casualty insurance provider serving the global corporate, large corporate, middle market, specialties and programs sectors through the individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company. Life insurance and disability coverage issued in the United States in all states except New York is issued by Zurich American Life Insurance Company, an Illinois domestic life insurance company. In New York, life insurance and disability coverage is issued by Zurich American Life Insurance Company of New York, a New York domestic life insurance company. For more information about the products and services it offers and people Zurich employs around the world go to www.zurichna.com. 2012 marked Zurich's 100-year anniversary of insuring America and the success of its customers, shareholders and employees.