In September 2017 there have been two category 5 (Maria, Irma) and two category 4 (Harvey, Jose) hurricanes. This is the most active month for hurricanes on record.
Whether or not you believe in climate change, or that these hurricanes are a product of climate change, a high percentage of the world does, and therefore, it’s having an impact on design. The way we plan and build our major cities, particularly in the Gulf Coasts (but not necessarily just there, since Sandy tore through New York City), must change. Storms are decimating cities and islands, displacing people, and design can help to prevent future crises, or at least the severity of the crises.
Architects and urban designers will consider with greater attention the threats of flooding. The flow of water that will occur must be planned deliberately with attention to high-risk areas. They can use the most effective range of measures available to reduce flooding, and attempt to predict and communicate flood risk, while implementing thoughtful and beautiful structures. For an example of an innovative flood prevention design that has surfaced recently, there is this one from Bjarke Ingels’ office, BIG.
Resiliency Rather than Sustainability
The Resilient Design Institute calls resilient design “the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to vulnerabilities to disaster and disruption of normal life.” Since Hurricane Sandy, and especially this past summer, resilient design is a major part of the urban planning conversation. Resilient design is a devotion to preparing buildings for the worst possible outcome.
Incentivizing Downtown Living
A major hindrance to providing aid to people in Houston was the city’s urban sprawl. When people are so spread out, it just makes sense that emergency units would have trouble to reach everyone. Instead of this trend of having sprawling cities like Houston and Phoenix, the city must provide downtowns with a higher quality of life—parks, bike lanes, walking paths, local shopping, high quality schools, etc—to encourage city inhabitants to live in closer proximity to one another. That way when disaster strikes the aid can be more centralized in one place. To assist in this, the city should implement a centralized emergency operation center in the downtown area.
The summer of 2017 was a frightening time period, but it’s certainly not the last string of disasters we’ll see. Cities must be ready for the next category 5, so people aren’t losing their homes and their livelihoods.
By: David Plick