Gone may be the days of lowest first cost being the primary criteria for selection of building structural systems. With the increases in intensity of high-impact weather due to climate change, owners, especially in government, institutional, and healthcare, are now increasingly looking at long-term durability and functional resiliency when designing structures.
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg requested the formation of a Buildings Resiliency Task Force. And San Francisco has recently named a chief resilience officer. Concrete producers can simultaneously raise awareness of the importance of resilient design, and promote the benefits of using concrete structures and products.
Begin with education
Educate yourself and others on the costs associated with building for resilience. Part of the problem, according to David Schultz and Vladimir Jankovic in “Climate Change and Resilience to Weather Events,” is that it is much easier to find money to rebuild than to build more robustly in the first place. This is true even though the cost of building structures to be more resilient is much less than the cost of tearing down an obsolete or unusable structure.
And keep in mind that the extreme weather event in your community depends on where you live. Those in the Midwest may focus on tornadoes or flooding; communities on the coasts may be more concerned with hurricanes or earthquakes. When flood maps were updated after Hurricane Sandy, we learned that 398,000 people in New York were living in flood-prone areas. But the effects of most high-impact weather events can be somewhat mitigated with concrete structures.
Aiding resilient design
Longevity and durability have long been the hallmarks of the concrete industry. And more recently, especially when it comes to resilience, concrete can be thought of as a more sustainable material. That is because there is a link between durability and sustainability. A structure isn’t very sustainable if it goes to the landfill after one catastrophic event.
In terms of the impact of disasters on a structure, PCA explains the benefits in terms of different weather events. For example, concrete’s weight allows it to resist uplift from high winds, storm surges, or flooding. Concrete isn’t damaged by water, is highly fire-resistant, and it doesn’t serve as a food source for mold.
Act locally, nationally
Weather events were responsible for $8.8 billion in property damage in 2013, according to the National Weather Service. Research by Hanley Wood revealed that 63% of all counties in the U.S. fall into what was defined as a Resilient Construction Area—identified as areas of greatest risk of damage due to natural disasters such as high wind loads and severe seismic activity This important national issue needs action in Congress and requires changes to building codes. Many industry groups are working to include resilient construction techniques in the building codes.
And those groups are also working to change legislation by introducing HR 2241, The Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act of 2014. This bill incentivizes the owner’s disaster-resilient property through a tax credit. It has been introduced in Congress and assigned to a committee. Concrete producers can assist by contacting local legislators and asking them to support the bill.
Durability still important
Whether durability is required for its sustainability or its resiliency, it is concrete’s signature characteristic. Keep abreast of changes in design focus and terminology, and how durability may fit. When it comes to resiliency, concrete is the most likely choice as a building material.
For more resources on resilient construction, visit the following: