In Hurricane Season, New Architecture Technology is Put to Test

A year ago, hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas. Just two weeks, later hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and Florida. Estimates of the damage’s price tag top $300 billion, with countless unreported incidents of damage no doubt inflating that number.[1]

Though damaging winds and debris are among the most threatening to people caught in the storm, it is heavy rainfall and flooding that poses the greatest risk to infrastructure. With yet more record-breaking hurricanes on the horizon, companies and local governments are scrambling to collaborate and help leverage technology for their hurricane preparation protocol.

In the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, Houston faced severe criticism for a perceived lack of zoning and overall short-sighted planning.[2] That prompted many citizens to call for an elevation requirement on all homes, a feature that has so far been reserved for high-income luxury developments.[3]

Houston-area builders Frankel Building Group suggested that, with a requirement likely in the pipeline, builders need to learn the technique and learn it fast. In the meantime, many people are building their homes are willing to shell out the additional $10,000-$50,000 that a pier and beam addition may require.[4] It is not an architectural catch-all, but it does offer peace of mind.

While the specifics of a home’s construction are key in riding out a storm, there is a sea-change happening in how everyone approaches storms in general. A key difference is a shift from resilience that aims to prevent flooding altogether to designs that plan for moderate flooding while keeping the building and its contents for the most part undamaged.[5]

Colorado-based company Vaisala has developed dropsonde technology, a small cylindrical weather device that is dropped via airplane directly into the storm. This provides weather services essential data about the intensity and direction of storms.

For communities looking to prep smarter, the Internet of Things may have a solution. IoT-connected home supply and grocery stores can keep residents informed of product availability so that they do not leave their homes unnecessarily, reducing traffic congestion and providing those same stores the data they need to better provide in future storms.[6]

Numerous apps helped residents during Irma and Harvey as well, from walkie-talkie mass-comms app Zello to gas availability app GasBuddy.[7]

There is no way to guarantee safety for people and infrastructure during massive storms. As they become stronger and more frequent, communities across the nation are being forced to think deeply about their strategies and be willing to tap help from any sector that can offer it.

This year’s mega-storms may be the first test of those new outlooks.

[1] https://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/12987-reeling-from-hurricanes-harvey-and-irma-architects-focus-on-rebuilding-and-resiliency

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/how-to-build-hurricane-proof-cities/539319/

[3] https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/morning_call/2016/06/homebuilder-demand-for-raised-homes-rise-amid.html

[4] https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/12/the-house-of-the-future-is-elevated/540327/

[5] https://www.enr.com/articles/42831-hurricanes-propel-forward-thinking-on-risk-resilience

[6]  https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/09/27/how-the-internet-of-things-can-help-us-prepare-for-a-hurricane/#7ed613b51513

[7] https://thenextweb.com/us/2017/09/15/tech-companies-help-hurricane-harvey-irma/

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