Tropical Cyclones

The United Nations declared the last decade of the 20th century, 1990-2000, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) inviting the nations of the world to work together toward reducing damage caused by the impact of natural hazards.

To commemorate the work of that decade, the IDNDR Secretariat in partnership with publisher Tudor Rose Holdings Ltd., Leicester, England, an over one hundred experts who volunteered their time as authors, the book Natural Disaster Management ( 1999 Tudor Rose Holdings, Limited, Leicester, England: ISBN 0 9536140 0 X, and ISBN 0 9536140 1 8 ) was published.

Natural Disaster Management sought to demonstrate the vast and rich range of risk management efforts being pursued around the world; and that natural disaster management is a composite effort of many people doing daily work, being attentive to hazards and dedicated to their professional roles in reducing risks. The beauty of this book is that it is the product of the work of many individuals who contributed their time and effort for, without exception, no financial gain, to share their experiences and to pass on the lessons they have learned in the pursuit of managing natural disasters.

I had the privilege of being invited by the Editorial Advisory Board to write the chapter on Tropical Cyclone, the only caveat being that I had to do this in non-technical language, but in comprehensive fashion relative to the knowledge to be transmitted, and in no more than three pages: quite an interesting challenge and a wonderful opportunity to share with others for the benefit of many. You can read this chapter by clicking on the following link: UNbook

A New Building Design Paradigm is Needed!

There is nothing like the impact of a natural hazard on an urban community to raise awareness to the vulnerability of our buildings to the forces of nature. It is common, after a hazard event, to hear claims for stronger building codes, better-built houses, and the need to educate all sectors of society on the need to protect our vulnerable communities. Protecting our Vulnerable Communities

Relative to this, few professions have the opportunity for making a significant an effective contribution to the protection of vulnerable communities as does the building-design and construction profession; I am referring to architects, structural engineers, and builders. In this respect, it is important to note however that design professionals must take a hard look at the current approach to the design and construction of buildings in vulnerable communities, for it is clear that some significant changes must take place if we are to avoid seeing a repeat of the same damages with each new impact of recurring hazards.

A good example, to illustrate such need for change in the methodology for buillding design and construction, is derived from considering the impact of climate change on coastal urban communities vulnerable to tropical cyclones. I presented a paper and a poster at a scientific conference, which addressed this exact topic: HANDOUT01162008rvsd

We must stop designing new buildings on the basis of historical data relative to hazard impacts. It is critically important that we assess the future vulnerability of a site and on that basis establish building design criteria, which will characterize future hazard impacts that are likely to take place during the service life of a new building. Think about this, it doesn’t do any good to design a building to resist coastal flooding or storm surge on the basis of flooding data that uses mean sea level of 1929 as a reference point, the correct approach is to determine current mean sea level and then project where sea level will be 30, 50, 75 years from now of for however long we think this specific building will be in service; based on such future projection we could characterize potential impacts from storm surge during future hurricanes, and from this arrive at building design criteria to make the structure resistant to such projected impacts thereby ensuring a reasonable level of protection for life and property and ensuring the continuity of the function and/or services carried out in the specific building. SUMMARY

A new building-design paradigm is needed. Our universities must incorporate relevant knowledge in architectural and engineering curricula, and professional certification boards must require demonstration of pertinent knowledge as a requirement for professional licensing. It is time for architects and engineers to decide that just meeting the minimum requirements of applicable building codes will not cut it when it comes to the design of hazard-resistant buildings, which will stand a chance for performing effectively in protecting life, property and services when impacted by future natural hazards.