As summer slips into fall…and we head into that time of year when Mother Nature “shows her stuff” in the form of wind and rain storms, hurricanes and more…our thoughts turn to how to design buildings that can better handle it all.
In London, a conference was held in 2011 on Adaptive Architecture. As the conference materials stated, “Architecture has always been inventive and adaptable. However, our current era is unique in its technological potential combined with societal and environmental challenges. The need to generate sustainability, developments in design techniques and technology advances are leading to the emergence of a new Adaptive Architecture.”
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the devastating fires out west and, most recently, the horrific flooding in Colorado, adaptive architecture becomes less about complementing and enhancing nature, and more about being better able to withstand it.
Soon after Sandy, Clay Nesler wrote on usgbc.org (U.S. Green Building Council), “As we reflect on how well our buildings and energy systems met the challenge and how we can do better moving forward, we should consider three overall objectives of building resilience: 1) minimizing damage to critical infrastructure during the event; 2) maintaining operational integrity and critical services immediately following the event; and 3) returning the building to normal, safe operating conditions as soon as possible.
He suggests we use passive design principles to increase building resilience. These include building envelope, natural ventilation, shading and water capture and storage – which would allow buildings to provide shelter, comfort and water without requiring a significant energy supply.
“As we learned in Superstorm Sandy,” continues Nesler, “many of the same design and operational principles that lead to greater sustainability can also lead to greater resilience. As if improving efficiency, reducing costs, creating jobs and protecting the environment weren’t enough, we can now add increasing resilience to the list of benefits resulting from more sustainable buildings and energy systems.
Building A Stronger Seashore Home
After Sandy, new federal flood regulations went into effect. New construction, and reconstruction, in flood hazard areas must be elevated, and sometimes relocated as well. Improvementcenter.com adds, “The primary culprit for hurricane damage is often the updraft caused by wind: one of your windows or doors breaks open, wind fills the house, the roof lifts off and the walls fall down. If you live in a coastal region, you want your home's construction (or re-construction in the wake of the storm) to prevent updrafts from leveling your house.
From the blog, lowcountryarchitect.com, “The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has understood for several decades how to prevent flood damage. The basics are general common sense; elevate the livable space, floor structure and heating and air-conditioning ducts above the 100 year flood plane and the potential storm surge; install hydro-static vents to prevent flood waters from collapsing foundation walls; build with materials that tolerate getting wet; and design the walls to easily dry after they get wet.”
A sketch by Brian Mann at OMNIA Group Architects, of an inventive idea he had for a house to adapt to rising flood waters:
The National Association of Home Builders suggests, “The advice of an experienced local builder, design professional, or code official is recommended in determining the appropriate design decisions for any home, particularly those in hurricane-prone areas.” We couldn’t agree more.
At the OMNIA Group Architects, we encourage our clients to share their design dreams and desires with us. That includes homes built to keep you safer and more secure no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.