8 Disaster Mitigation

Recent natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods have architects and emergency preparedness experts on alert. Shown here, Hurricane Sandy left $71 billion in devastation in 24 states in 2012. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 devastated parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. It killed 57 people and left several thousand homeless. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

A 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri that destroyed more than 2,000 homes has led architects and legislators to coordinate on a statewide building code. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

The surge caused by Hurricane Katrina breached almost every levee in the city of New Orleans. The hurricane and resulting floods killed more than 1,800 people. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

High-profile natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy have architects thinking about disaster preparedness. Shown here is damage to the historic boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Photo Credit: Craig Semetko

Disaster Mitigation

Architects are all about building things. But in today’s world, they also must think about how to keep buildings and communities standing in the face of natural disasters, and how to rebuild when disaster strikes.

In recent years, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters have wiped out buildings and sometimes even entire communities in urban and rural environments, in both coastal and inland areas.

In response, organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are preparing for inevitable catastrophes by evaluating areas at risk, shoring up building codes to reduce or prevent damage, and creating preparedness plans to help communities be more resilient in the aftermath of a disaster.

By retrofitting existing buildings, establishing more consistent building codes (and local standards suited to local risks), working through various “what if” scenarios, and putting plans in place for repairing and rebuilding when necessary, the architecture and building community hopes to improve readiness for – and response to – inevitable natural disasters.