Maintaining A Resilient Building

An architect and engineer discuss the latest trends in building resiliency.

Compiled by Facility Executive
From the October 2022 Issue

Collier County in Naples, FL suffered $2.2 billion in damages from Hurricane Ian, with $492 million in damages to commercial buildings, according to Naples Daily News. This is only one county—as of early October 2022, the total impact of Hurricane Ian remains to be seen in Florida, North Carolina, and Cuba.

Commercial buildings hit hardest by Hurricane Ian, including schools, hotels, office buildings, restaurants, hospitals, etc. are dealing with a combination of wind and flood damage, says Adam J. Reeder, PE, CFM, Principal of CDM Smith, a civil/structural engineer with over 15 years of experience working in natural hazard mitigation.

“The percentage of buildings damaged by wind is significantly lower based on improvements to the building code initially following Hurricane Andrew and then additional improvements made following storms such as Hurricane Charley,” he adds.

However, flooding was the most significant hazard for buildings. Reeder says water damage is extensive, and these “damages include inundation damage to lowest floors (e.g. interior finishes, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems) as well as structural damage due to storm surge and debris knocking out doors, windows, and walls.”

From hurricanes to wildfires, more natural disasters cause devastation for people and infrastructure across the world. Hurricane Ian demonstrated how multiple threats can cause devastation—even if they don’t have a direct impact on a building’s structure.

building resiliency
Hennepin County 911 Emergency Communications facility staff takes calls and dispatches from a daylit call center that can withstand an EF2 tornado and associated windborne flying debris. (Photos: Wold Architects and Engineers)

building resiliency

“Even though some buildings were saved, they were without power, water, or their roads were blocked by debris,” says Roger Schroepfer, AIA, LEED AP, NENA—Partner at Wold Architects & Engineers.

Given the state of climate change, along with an increased focus on building safety and security, building resiliency is more top of mind than ever before.

“Resiliency is about understanding the threats, not only to buildings, but to the whole infrastructure around the building,” says Schroepfer. “There are two major questions around resiliency everyone needs to think about: What are the risks to your building; and what is your tolerance for risk?”

Risk can be anything from loss of life, loss of property, and loss of revenue if buildings are no longer able to function after a disaster.

“Hardening and redundancy options are available to mitigate the risks that you want to avoid,” says Schroepfer. “The pendulum is cost versus risk—and if you think about [having insurance], you may not be mitigating risk, but you’re mitigating cost.”

Resilient Design Standards

As for how resiliency-based design has evolved in the face of climate change, Schroepfer believes the types of threats are the same, but the level of threats is increasing; from wind, storm surges, wildfires, etc. Building codes may aim to make buildings’ safer, but owners and designers that take extra measures to ensure resiliency can mitigate damage and long-term costs.

Government agencies, the academic community, and design organizations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, are investigating ways to incorporate climate change into building design. Reeder believes it will take time before this is formally adopted into the building codes.

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