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Building Resiliency - When Disaster Strikes

Building Resiliency - When Disaster Strikes

During the spring and summer months, catastrophic weather events tend to increase. As a result, many communities are forced to turn their attention to the resiliency of their infrastructure, often after it’s too late. While no structure is the same, there are several factors to evaluate during planning, design, construction and/or rehabilitation that can help clients prepare for these types of events. This includes identifying the elements that increase the structure’s resiliency, prioritizing the structural components that need to remain intact and knowing how to best protect the people in and around the facility who could be impacted.

Analyze the Elements

When formulating a plan for resiliency, one of the first factors to consider is how the site’s geography will influence the building materials. This could include temperature, climate, humidity and moisture which will influence the type of materials that need to be used. Climates in the Southwest where temperatures are hot and dry require different materials than a building located in the Northeast where winters can have extreme cold, freezing rain, or deep snow. Seasonal events, such as Midwest tornados and hurricanes of the Southeast, should also be considered when determining which materials suit the structure best.

Structural, mechanical and electrical engineering aspects also must be considered. The structural components of a building must be able to withstand extreme winds, storm surges, earthquakes, wildfires and more. Mechanical should focus on the HVAC system to maintain indoor air quality and mold prevention. And electrical should consider lights, maintenance of elevators, etc. Each of these factors combined help to create a fully weather-resilient building. 

Personnel Protection

The most important aspect of building a resilient structure is the safety of those who will occupy it.  Heating, cooling, water, sanitation, food and electricity are all personnel factors to consider in addition to making sure the building itself withstands the weather event. For example, if there is a flooding event that covers the vehicles in the parking lot, how will personnel get home? Are there alternate routes? If the electricity or HVAC system goes out during a hurricane, how will staff fare if required to shelter-in-place inside the building? 

Ready for the Storm

When hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi in 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard's Gulfport Station selected B&N and design-build partner Tesoro Corporation, to build a new facility that would withstand future hurricanes after its former building was leveled by a 26-foot wave.

B&N designed a new multimission station in the same location as the previous leveled building constructed to withstand Category 4 hurricane force winds (131 mph or greater) and storm surges of 18 feet above high tide. 

Completed in 2009, the new facility was not only designed to address all the key resiliency factors described above, but also saved the Coast Guard an estimated $1M using an alternative layout that eliminated the need to excavate old piles. Since its construction, Gulfport Station has endured Hurricane Nate (Category 1) in 2017.

B&N provided full-service architectural design including site civil, mechanical, electrical and structural engineering. The key components to the success of this project included tip-over and breakaway walls on the first floor to allow the storm surge to flow through the building, mission-critical functions housed on the second and third floors rather than the first in the event of flooding, state-of-the-art maintenance and living spaces for crew members and exterior that blends the with surrounding waterfront area and meets the regions Smart Code. 

Resiliency Ready from All Angles

As a full-service engineering firm, B&N has a solid understanding of a variety of issues and conditions. We’re able to tackle resiliency from architectural, structural, environmental, transportation, stormwater and wastewater viewpoints. "Many times, clients know about a particular aspect of their facility, but don't understand the potential domino effect,” according to Don Arnold, B&N’s Section Director, Cincinnati Architecture. “We always try to drive out what they don't understand. It's a process that we bring to the table with our projects." 

At B&N, assessing resiliency is a natural part of the design process for each client starting with identifying the primary function of the building and the obstacles that need to be anticipated. 

We have completed projects in a variety of geographic locations and have worked with a variety of unique resiliency issues. To learn more about how we can assist with resiliency needs, please contact one of our experts.

Don Arnold, RA, LEED AP BD+C, Director, Architecture Section

Don Arnold, RA, LEED AP BD+C 
Director, Architecture Section