Rebuilding after a natural disaster

Georgia Tech professors share their expertise on disaster recovery and intelligent infrastructure.

Hurricane season may be coming to an end soon, but it’s not without significant impact and devastation. Two Georgia Tech experts offer their insights on infrastructure and how to rebuild after severe weather.

According to the professor of civil and environmental engineering Herman Fritz, “There have been significant improvements in Florida and Gulf Coast building codes over the past three decades. Hurricane Ian’s impact was primarily caused by storm surge and storm surge, while the amount of wind damage was limited and highlights the success of advancing building codes since Hurricane Andrew.

Iris Tian, an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, points to the increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes and says it’s not enough to build based solely on what has happened in the past . “We need to transform our way of thinking from reacting to events to becoming anticipatory and forward-looking. We don’t want to build just to have to rebuild again when the next hurricane comes. In creating a resilient infrastructure, we must anticipate the future events, loads, shocks and stressors that our infrastructure will need to withstand and build to those levels.

Fritz shares the belief of other experts that storms are likely to become more frequent and potentially larger, with higher wind speeds, storm surges and other hazards. Even in basins where storms have been rare, such as the Arabian Sea, there has been an increase in storm frequency, which may be related to rising sea surface temperatures.

Each city, state and region has its own risk exposure, environmental conditions and demographic characteristics. It is essential that builders, planners and infrastructure operators look to the future to anticipate the conditions likely to arise and implement solutions that take into account the range of possible storm impacts, as well as environment and population specific factors to create and tailor solutions for their specific community.

“Locations and types of infrastructure are both important to consider,” Tien said. “We need to invest in infrastructure that adapts to the different levels of demand expected for these systems. We also need to invest in infrastructure where success is measured by community and population impacts. This will ensure resilient, sustainable and equitable infrastructure serving communities moving towards the coming.”