June 21 2011

Designing for Disaster: Building for Global Warming

Tornados, Hurricanes, Floods – Oh My!

Global weather patterns are changing – no matter what the cause. Record freezes and heat waves, more intense tornados and hurricanes, more severe floods and tsunamis. A complex combination of worst practices on our part, mixed with a surprising degree of volatility in earth’s geographic and atmospheric systems, is challenging our built environments. Neither domiciles nor infrastructure can keep up with the consequences of our lifestyle choices – from carbon consumption, to demand for cheap building materials, to high-risk location choices.

Can We Design Our Way Out? You Betcha*! (*As Sarah Palin might say…)

Remedies for mitigating damage from weather-related disaster are numerous and diverse. Simple and complex design remedies, plus behavioral remedies are listed below. Which ones could you implement?

Simple Design Remedies:

  • General architecture: William Summers of DesignEnvelope.com, provides to-do lists for making your house disaster resistant, including simple solutions such as locating your furnace, water heater, and electrical panel above the base flood elevation;
  • Materials: ICFs (Insulating Concrete Forms) protect against tornadoes, hurricanes, and fires;
  • Form: Pyramid-shaped structures are more stable against earthquakes and winds.

Complex Design Remedies:

Behavioral Remedies:

Yes We Can – But Will We?

Philadelphia’s East Parkside project is a poster child for good planning – choosing concrete building materials for safety, durability, and more. However, I think the majority of property owners and tenants will continue to choose curb appeal and amenities before disaster-proof design.

Or – ironic salvation – will the cost of disaster save us by making it cheaper to build for global warming?

Are you living in a natural disaster area? Have you implemented any of these design or behavioral remedies?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 6:30 pm and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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