How do we solve the design challenges after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose?

  

How do we solve the design challenges after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose?

As many government agencies embark on spending Billions of dollars for the reconstruction and redevelopment of the affected areas, I think it is imperative for us architects to envision the leadership of the agencies to spend the funding in a sustainable and environmental responsive way, that would meet the significant challenges that derived from these horrific hurricanes.

It is no doubt the recent hurricanes that hit the United States and the Caribbean Islands contributed a major blow to our lives both culturally, economically, mentally, spiritually, socially, physically and psychologically. In some cases, this has affected entire islands like Barbuda, Puerto Rico and St Martin, to name a few.

As architects, we are trained to listen to the client’s needs and wants and react in such ways to create many solutions to the one problem. Often compromising and trading off on different solutions. The same applies to this massive problem.

So, what does this have to do with us being architects. Well, for one thing we could all come together and collaborate and try to solve the design challenges that we are trained and experienced to do such as ‘Design Matters’. Design Matters most and all the time, especially when we look at the pictures and see the horrific destruction of the buildings and infrastructures. As architects, we design and create the environment that people like us humans live in, not forgetting our other environmental friends, the birds and the bees. So Where do we start?

Do we follow FEMA ‘s and the other agencies lead with all of the politics and protocol or go with our own selfish egos to make a buck? In other words, capitalize on this horrific tragedy, or do we mend together and come up with some creative solutions for the areas affected by the hurricanes within the United States including Puerto Rico and the other Caribbean Islands. Different solutions, different problems but same source -hurricanes – that creates the problems.

 

I am a registered architect in Maryland and live in the Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia area (the DMV) as it is called, and there are many architects in this area like myself that are passionate enough and concerned with the damages that occurred and the lives affected. Can we collaborate and come together with our fellow organizations such as the local AIA Chapters, Committees or Groups and developed creative and sustainable design solutions that would benefit all the affected areas. It is a huge design challenge, but can be done. Remember, architects solve design challenges and problems.

We should not rebuild or re-construct the various infrastructures (housing, hospitals, schools, offices, fire stations, airport terminals, an electrical grid, etc.) in the same fashion as previously build because of the total devastation. But design and build better and smarter with the modern technology we have today and with the collective data collected from the hurricanes. We should also think about the next generation for the next 50 years or more.

As the governor of Puerto Rico said, the greatest share of the funding would be put toward housing, because most homes on the islands had been “destroyed or substantially damaged”. Hurricanes will come and go every year, some powerful and destructive, others very small with minimum destruction or none. Guessing what ‘Mother Nature” throws at us will always be our biggest challenge.

In Washington, DC the House recently passed a Bill for $36.5 Billion in aid package that would provide hurricane and wildfire relief funding. Remember the wildfires in California. This number when added to the previous $15.3 Billion in response to this year’s hurricanes, brings the tab to more than $50 Billion, and this is not the end of it. The cost is expected to rise once all the rebuilding and reconstruction assessments are completed.

So, this is an awareness and an opportunity to all architects that are thinking of ways to help the citizens and government agencies of the affected areas of the hurricanes. Remember Katrina in 2006. The AIA led an effort called “Rebuilding New Orleans” that portrayed many design solutions and options to rebuild, which many architects and design professionals participated. I was privileged to be part of those discussions.

This hurricane season, we experienced Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose. What’s next? Or, what does the future hold for designing various infrastructures to withstand these horrific hurricanes. Together, It’s our challenge

Areas Affected:

Houston, Texas- Florida- Puerto Rico- US Virgin Islands- British Virgin Islands-St. Martin- Bahamas- Dominica- St. Croix- Antigua and Barbuda

My first blog on this issue.

Rupert IP McCave, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Washington, DC AIA Chapter; COTE Committee Member

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