Construction Standards Changing to Prep for Natural Disasters

September 12, 2018

In the most active weeks of hurricane season, it's hard not to think about the devastation and loss that comes with powerful hurricanes and other natural disaster, especially now as multiple parts of the U.S brace for impact with hurricanes projected to make landfall in the coming days. Not to mention the raging forest fires currently burning in the west. While most people are trying to figure out how to rebuild and recover, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is doing their part by thinking ahead. In an address to Congress, the NIST presented a set of detailed steps necessary to increase building functionality after natural disasters so that post-disaster impact to communities will not be as severe as we've seen.

If there's anything we've learned from disaster after disaster, either wildfire, tornado, hurricane, or flood, it's that you can never be too prepared. Consider the devastation Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has suffered for the past year following the horrific Hurricane Maria. The death toll, which is now considered to be over 4,600, is mostly due to the living conditions following the category 5 hurricane. Much of Puerto Rico's structures were illegally erected, not built to code, adding to the structural devastation. Where they're located, you can bet that this isn't the last hurricane they'll ever experience. However, building standards like the ones suggested by NIST would make a world of difference for disaster impact everywhere, but especially places like Puerto Rico.

In the push for funding, the National Institute of Building Sciences found that an average of $6 is saved for every dollar spent on disaster resiliency and mitigation. Currently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is spending $16 billion in grant money to take damage prevention measures like raising structures above floodplains and strengthening utility systems. We may be just at the beginning of this movement, but it's definitely a movement we need.

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