1. Mitigation Milestones

    Today in history:

    Fort Collins Flood, July 28, 1997

    Damage to Morgan Library, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, August 1997

    Colorado State University Special Collections

    Forecasters lacked critical information and failed to predict this severe flood. In response, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network, which makes extensive use of rain gauges, was formed to improve emergency alert systems.

    To learn more about disaster mitigation, visit Designing for Disaster at the National Building Museum, on view through August 2, 2015.


  2. The recently completed retrofit of the Bay Bridge, a
    designated emergency “lifeline” route, includes a new, self-
    anchored suspension span—the largest bridge of its kind
    anywhere. The East Span is largely designed to be elastic, with
    sections engineered to move independently. ©Steve Proehl

  3. Designed to break the cycle of disaster, rather than repeat it, mitigation can not only help save lives, protect property, and reduce losses, it can also help individuals, communities, and regions recover more quickly after a disaster.

  4. Building More Durable Cities: One World Trade Center

    Reaching new heights in creating a more resilient, safer, and sustainable urban landscape

    by Henry Prenger, Lafarge North America


    Photo courtesy of The Durst Organization

    Resisting time and natural disasters and reducing environmental impacts are major challenges for cities. Over the next decade, cities will change substantially, as a significant share of our population and economic activity will be concentrated along urban coastal areas prone to natural disasters.

    New York City has always faced climate risks, including nor’easters, coastal storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and storm surges. The tropical storm force winds of Hurricane Irene in 2011 resulted in at least ten fatalities and produced heavy damage over much of the city, and Superstorm Sandy took the lives of 53 residents, destroyed thousands of buildings, and caused $19 billion in damages and lost economic activity. Tornadoes also have been whipping the city more frequently since 2007. These weather events affect every New Yorker, and as our climate changes, they will become more frequent and severe. Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, New York released a $20 billion plan to invest in resilience measures and improved building codes to protect the city’s infrastructure.

    Rising a symbolic 1,776 feet above the iconic skyline of Manhattan and standing as the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center is setting a new standard for more resilient, safer, and more sustainable urban landscapes. Monumental in scale, this landmark 104-story tower features 3,500,000 square feet of space that will accommodate activities vital to the nation’s economy.

    Taking advantage of innovative construction materials, SOM Architects designed One World Trade Center to be the safest and most environmentally friendly commercial building in the world. The structure includes a massive cast-in-place, reinforced concrete inner core that runs the full height of the tower—an extra-strong backbone that provides support for gravitational loads as well as resistance to wind and seismic forces. The concrete core walls measure three feet thick or more above ground and up to twice that below grade. Higher up, the concrete core walls slim down to two feet thick.

    The 200,000 cubic yards of concrete used in the tower’s superstructure—with a strength that has never been used on such a scale in building construction—was custom-designed to ensure high levels of durability, constructability, and sustainability. Supporting columns on the first 40 floors were made from 12,000- to 14,000-psi self-consolidating concrete and the upper floors with 8,600–10,000-psi mix designs. To meet the compressive strength requirements, the design and engineering team relied on a highly specialized concrete mix that included Lafarge Portland I/II and NewCem® slag cements, as well as other supplementary cementitious materials. Engineered for high strength and long-term durability, NewCem slag cement helps achieve greater strength potential and helps control shrinkage, creep, and cracking in mass concrete structures.

    High-strength concrete was the ideal material for meeting the high-priority safety requirements for One World Trade Center because key supporting members—such as elevator and stair enclosures—often relied upon to resist wind, seismic and other impact forces, are designed with an extra measure of durability and resilience. The concrete also made a strong contribution to the building’s LEED® Gold rating. Besides being virtually fireproof, concrete is produced locally and creates excellent thermal and sound barriers. NewCem slag cement also contributed to the tower’s sustainable design, as it saves virgin raw materials, consumes less energy and uses a recyclable by-product of the steel-making process that might otherwise be disposed of in landfills.


    Designing for Disaster is generously supported by Lafarge North America.


  5. Mitigation is more demanding than simply rebuilding, it requires rethinking.


  7. Expert Spotlight: Kate Orff, Founder, SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, Associate Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, New York, New York

    Kate Orff is a landscape architect focused on sustainable design and urban water landscapes. Her firm specializes in integrating natural systems and infrastructure. To rehabilitate New York’s infamously polluted Gowanus Canal, she combined marine ecology with landscape architecture in an innovative scheme called “oyster-tecture.” At Columbia, Orff directs the Urban Landscape Lab.


  8. Rethink Competition

    Notes from Designing for Disaster associate curator Christine Canabou

    Lesson from the panel discussion on June 24 talking about the innovative Rebuild by Design competition that responded to Hurricane Sandy:

    Don’t start with a solution or predefined idea of success, like most competitions. Have the guts to say, I don’t know. Start with a question. Ask the community, What are your needs?

    For Rebuild by Design, a  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development led initiative to promote resilience and design solutions in the areas hardest hit by the devastating storm, teams (some of the country’s best) started with that modest yet bold question.

    That question to communities is informing a commitment to design—genuinely implementable and replicable design!—that addresses climate change, sea level rise, and flood risk.


    OMA, one the six winning teams, shared a slide (above) demonstrating what not do: Build an urban fortress to defend against future threats. Who’d want to live there?


    Do: Instead, OMA proposes a comprehensive water strategy for Hoboken, New Jersey. Resist through hard infrastructure and soft landscape; delay rainwater runoff; store and direct excess rainwater; discharge or get rid of water with pumps and alternative routes to support drainage.
    Stay tuned for more exhibition-related public programs here.


  9. Expert Profile: J. David Waggonner III, FAIA, Principal, Waggonner & Ball Architects, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Architect David Waggonner believes New Orleans can be reinvented by embracing its lifeblood, water, rather than keeping it at bay. His approach to urban resiliency has been informed by practitioners from the Netherlands. After Hurricane Katrina he initiated Dutch Dialogues, a series of multidisciplinary exchanges focused on water-based urban design in delta environments.


  10. Expert Spotlight: H. Kit Miyamoto, Ph.D., S.E., F.ASCE, CEO and President, Miyamoto International, Sacramento, California

    Humanitarian, structural engineer, entrepreneur: Kit Miyamoto is innovative practitioner and outspoken advocate for reducing earthquake risks. His firm is active here and abroad, including Haiti and New Zealand, developing and designing high-performance engineering solutions and implementing post-disaster reconstruction projects. He has written numerous technical papers, recommended changes to seismic provisions of the International Building Code, and is a California Seismic Safety Commissioner.