What Role Will Architects Play in Natural Disaster Preparedness?

This year has been a compilation of catastrophic natural disasters, from fires ravaging Greece and California, to flooding inundating New York and China, to hurricanes smashing into Louisiana and the U.S. eastern coast. It’s not off target, either, to feel like the frequency of these climate-related disasters is increasing; the numbers back it up. An October 2020 report from the UN found there were around 7,300 recorded disaster events worldwide between 2000 and 2020. The previous 20 years only saw around 4,200.

Experts agree that mobilization to reduce the frequency of natural disasters will take trillions of dollars across multiple countries to radically shift energy consumption and our ecological footprint. That, however, doesn’t account for the immediate short-term impacts on our urban and rural infrastructure; can our homes, public buildings, and offices build resiliency against this growing rate of natural hazards?

Countries like Japan, which see several earthquakes and tropical storms a year, are actively investing in fresh infrastructure projects to the tune of 15 trillion yen over five years to accelerate disaster preparedness; this is in-line with commitments the country has been making for years, implementing new layers of accountability after successive events.

Is this sort of dedication to structural and design resiliency replicable? At every corner of the globe, how should architects approach designing for a future that likely includes more disaster events? Which materials, strategies, and collaborative efforts will be most useful and efficacious? For insights, we sourced Ariane Fehrenkamp, Senior Project Manager at Perkins&Will, a global design practice with studios in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Denmark, China, and Brazil.

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