Resilient Housing, Hurricane Maria

As we continue to face devastating natural disasters here and throughout the world, now more than ever, designing resilient housing has become an intrinsic aspect of our everyday lives.

Resilient housing is designed to maintain livable conditions during interruptions in basic services (electricity, water, etc.) or disturbances resulting from climate change such as warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, intensified storms and wildfires. It adapts to changing conditions and quickly recovers after a disruption or crisis and can withstand natural or manmade disasters and recuperate rapidly during the aftermath.

Still, a key element of resilient housing must include the community where it is being built. You cannot build resilient housing without developing resilient community centers. During a disaster or emergency, your community resilience space can serve as a neighborhood hub where members of your and surrounding communities can receive critical information, potable water, food and medical services. People who have strong relationships with each other are better prepared to get through disasters and their aftermath.

Building resilient housing often comes with cost challenges, and that is why a long-term view of a property’s value must be considered. What may seem to be costly today may not be as much after you see the total life cycle of a property. Ignoring this important issue associated with disaster recovery—response, repairs, reconstruction, etc.—can be as disastrous as the natural hazards themselves. Resilient housing will keep you safer and save you more money in the long run.

Even though resilient housing and sustainable housing aren’t the same, several elements can overlap. The design and construction choices of resilient housing improves a project’s sustainability and qualify it for LEED and other green-building certifications. Multilayered impact-resistant windows, for example, protect a building from hurricane-force winds, while also saving energy and reducing power bills.

Since resilient housing is location specific, it can endure disaster scenarios that can probably occur around the area where you live. Nevertheless, as weather patterns continue to evolve, it is prudent to understand the many potential situations that may occur. For example, architects in Florida and the Caribbean, are designing buildings that can withstand hurricane-force winds and torrential rains, while architects in California consider seismic activity and wildfires.

The extensive damage and human suffering caused by natural and manmade disasters remind us of the importance of planning and design. We must always think in terms of long-term life cycles to fully engage in resilient design and construction. A construction that can adapt to changing conditions and stand the test of time, is why architects and developers must think long-term and consider the worst-case scenarios when aiming to create resilient and sustainable buildings, communities and cities.

It is imperative that we use our past experiences living through several hurricanes and earthquakes as a catalyst to push Puerto Rico at the forefront of resilient housing and design.

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