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:
- Engineering wonders that control seismic vibration:
- Both ancient, such as Inca dry-stone walls;
- And cutting edge, such as tuned mass dampers.
- Previous examples were structural, but behavioral solutions also abound:
- Utilizing wood conservatively to prevent deforestation, which causes “natural” disasters such as flooding, landslides, and drought;
- Designing curricula to teach children to choose geographical locations best suited for withstanding disasters.
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?