Designing Resilient Buildings in Disaster-Prone Regions


Natural disasters are no strange occurrence, but they've increased in frequency and intensity in recent years. Hurricanes, floods and earthquakes have uprooted people's lives and homes with no restraint. Architects and builders continually brainstorm better ways to construct buildings in response to the destruction and construction companies have numerous ways of increasing stability.

1. Ductile Materials

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Designing Resilient Buildings in Disaster-Prone Regions

A material's ductility dictates its ability to undergo significant warping or shaping without breaking. Steel is a standard ductile material — builders can hammer it into thin wires or sheets without shattering it. This quality makes it a favorite for construction, especially in areas prone to seismic activity.

Concrete and iron are also favorable materials in regions that frequently experience earthquakes. Architects integrate these elements into a seismic design approach, which evaluates how well a building can withstand shakes. It looks at whether the structure is well-suited for saving human lives and how much of it will be salvageable after the damage.

2. Dry and Wet Floodproofing

Floodproofing involves making a structure watertight and elevating it above the highest possible flood levels. Homes near the seaside usually sit on stilts or pier foundations, which allows water to flood underneath. Lifting a house is a form of wet floodproofing — floodwaters can still enter the home or general area without causing destruction. Contractors may install breakaway walls, protect electrical equipment or anchor the building.

Dry floodproofing typically includes sealing the walls with impermeable membranes or adding extra layers of concrete. Builders secure wall openings with closures and use barriers along the property to stop water from entering. This method emphasizes the complete prevention of water infiltration, while wet proofing enables controlled flooding.

3. Building Information Modeling

Building information modeling influences a structure from its initial conception until its completion. This technology lets construction professionals collaborate on a model and amend any vulnerabilities. Contractors can improve weak points through virtual modeling before buildings ever make it to the physical structure stage.

One such example of BIM in action occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2015. Builders created virtual representations of buildings destroyed by earthquakes and used the designs to develop impact-resistant versions. These constructions were sturdier than their previous iterations, which gave them a sufficient safeguard against the area's frequent tremors.

4. Load Path Continuity

Load path continuity refers to how weight spreads throughout a building — from its highest point to its lowest. Many structures have roof-to-wall connections secured by nails, but these connections don't extend to the foundation. 

The best way to achieve load path continuity is to ensure a reliable connection from the roof to the base. That way, the entire building will withstand strong winds rather than only the top part.

Hurricane straps — as well as bracing — are excellent for maintaining roof-to-foundation stability. Protecting the building envelope is a primary concern in weatherproofing a structure, which makes establishing a stable load path necessary.

5. Metal Bracing

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Designing Resilient Buildings in Disaster-Prone Regions

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Builders often use metal bracing to ensure a building's resistance to high winds. Bracing protects windows, doors and walls by transferring the load stress equally to each brace. It works horizontally and vertically across a structure, pushing back against latitudinal and longitudinal forces. Lateral forces generally occur as strong winds or earthquakes, which can cause a building to rock back and forth and eventually collapse.

Metal braces prevent these collapses from happening while strengthening existing bonds, such as elements glued or nailed together. This method of disaster resilience lends itself well to multiple applications, such as cross-bracing and V-bracing.

6. Roof Drainage

When contractors build a new home in a rainy, flood-prone location, they often equip the roof with reinforced drainage components. Gutters aren't always enough to control fast-flowing waters. The roof's shape is essential — it has to slope at an appropriate angle to reduce ponding, which happens when water collects on a surface. The roof could leak or collapse without this consideration.

Many drainage systems contain a primary and secondary element. For example, the principal component could be an external downspout, while the backup measure would be internal roof drains. These features, along with the roof's pitch, determine how well a building can shed heavy rainfall and avoid interior damages.

7. Shock Absorbers

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Designing Resilient Buildings in Disaster-Prone Regions

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Shock absorbers are much like metal braces in that they keep buildings standing in the middle of intense earthquakes. Japanese builders tend to incorporate shock absorbers in their constructions due to the area's high earthquake rate. 

The Mori Tower in Tokyo, Japan, contains oil-filled dampers. When a shake occurs, the oil splashes in the opposite direction of the movement to offset the building's swaying.

Buildings That Can Withstand the Elements

Disaster resilience is the backbone of construction. Without it, many more buildings would suffer from weather-related destruction. Contractors uphold their duty of developing safe foundations by using tested and trustworthy methods.

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Comments (1)

robert, Architect • 2020

Great ideas