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Natural Disasters: Opportunities to Integrate Energy-Efficiency, Resiliency, and Durability When Rebuilding

Feb 25, 2022

Almost 70 out-of-season tornadoes tore through several states in December 2021 causing destruction, injuries, and deaths. Recently, a massive snowstorm hit the Fredericksburg area, stranding motorists and leaving people struggling to heat themselves because of power outages. As more natural disasters occur due to climate change, researcHERS® are finding ways to monitor and mitigate the effects of extreme weather.

Durability and Green Buildings

A study by RealtyTrac revealed that 43% of American homes and condos are at risk of at least one kind of natural disaster. In addition, the magnitude of disasters is expanding because of increased urbanization and environmental degradation according to the authors of the study. The good news is that a resilient accommodation can handle the stresses of severe weather. Naturally, you may not know yet how a hurricane will affect your home, but if you live in a hurricane-prone area, shutters and multi pane windows can protect your abode from the strong winds and rain. Cleaning drains and roofs and ensuring that you have adequate food and water are part of preparing for a storm.  An emergency plan should also be in place, including evacuation routes, shelter, medication, and first aid.

Neil Freidberg, building science expert, says that using resilient materials for ventilation, wall design, and renovation are vital. In effect, houses must be built stronger, less prone to floods, and resistant to fires. The goal he says is to lessen property damage and protect inhabitants. From the roof to the walls and floors, using building materials that are resistant to damage or destruction will help in coping with extreme natural calamities.

Integrating Sustainable Energy Systems 

Robust building materials are effective in reducing a home’s energy consumption while increasing its structural strength. In areas where earthquakes are prevalent, replacing bracing materials with crushed concrete and plywood improves its capability to withstand seismic hazards. Concrete homes and well-insulated roofs and walls also conserve energy that is used for heating and cooling. To counter flood risks, building codes are improved and enforced. Flood-resilient construction aims to reduce the impact of a flood, ensure the structural integrity is maintained, and facilitate cleaning and drying.

Alternative energy systems are useful to better meet the power needs of a home when there are natural disasters. To illustrate, solar panels, heat pumps, and biomass are sustainable energy sources that can still operate during a flood or a storm. The aim is to be self-sufficient when a structure is disconnected from the central utility because of extreme weather or surges in power demand. Having alternative energy also helps as in the case of El Paso during the winter storm in February 2021. As it was not reliant on the Texas grid, the power outage was brief, Plus, it improved the infrastructure of its power stations so that they can withstand very low temperatures. Furthermore, it investigated different sources of power including large solar batteries.

Extreme weather is destructive. However, it is possible to use them as opportunities to rebuild or construct dwellings that are resilient using sustainable building materials and power systems.