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Benefits and Costs of Research: A Case Study of Improved Service Life Prediction



Robert E. Chapman, David T. Butry, Allison L. Huang, Douglas S. Thomas


This report focuses on a critical analysis of the economic impacts of research conducted by BFRL s Service Life Prediction (SLP) Program for High-Performance Polymeric Construction Materials. The SLP Program is an interdisciplinary research effort within BFRL in collaboration with the private sector, other federal agencies, and other laboratories within NIST to develop key enabling technologies and advanced measurement technologies needed to deliver high-performance polymeric construction materials to the construction industry. This case study of BFRL s SLP-related research, development, and deployment effort illustrates how to apply in practice a series of standardized methods to evaluate and compare the economic impacts of alternative research investments. It is presented in sufficient detail to understand the basis for the economic impact assessment and to reproduce the results. It is based on past research efforts. The results of this study demonstrate that the use of high-performance polymeric construction materials will generate substantial cost savings to materials manufacturers, the owners and managers of commercial buildings, and to other key construction industry stakeholders. The present value of savings nationwide expected from the use of improved SLP products and services is nearly $190 million (measured in 2008 dollars). Furthermore, because of BFRL s involvement, improved SLP products and services are expected to be commercially available on a more-timely basis and in greater quantity. The present value of these cost savings attributable to BFRL is approximately $48 million. These cost savings measure the value of BFRL s contribution for its SLP-related investment costs of approximately $38.5 million. Stated in present value terms, every public dollar invested in BFRL s SLP-related research, development, and deployment effort is expected to generate $1.23 in cost savings to the public.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1650
Report Number


Building economics, building materials, construction, economic analysis, impact evaluation, life-cycle costing, polymeric materials, service life prediction


Chapman, R. , Butry, D. , Huang, A. and Thomas, D. (2009), Benefits and Costs of Research: A Case Study of Improved Service Life Prediction, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created October 15, 2009, Updated February 19, 2017