What role will architects play in preparing for natural disasters?

This year has been a compilation of catastrophic natural disasters, from fires ravaging Greece and California, to flooding flooding New York and China, to hurricanes crashing into Louisiana and the east coast of the United States. It is also not wrong to think that the frequency of these climate-related disasters is increasing; the numbers confirm it. An October 2020 UN report found that there were about 7,300 catastrophic events recorded worldwide between 2000 and 2020. The previous 20 years have seen only about 4,200.

Experts agree that mobilizing to reduce the frequency of natural disasters will require billions of dollars in several countries to radically change energy use and our ecological footprint. This, however, does not take into account the immediate short term impacts on our urban and rural infrastructure; Can our homes, public buildings and offices strengthen their resilience in the face of this increasing rate of natural hazards?

Countries like Japan, which experience several earthquakes and tropical storms per year, are actively investing in new infrastructure projects to the tune of 15 trillion yen over five years to accelerate disaster preparedness; this is in line with the commitments that the country has made for years, implementing new levels of responsibility after successive events.

Is this kind of dedication to structural and design resilience repeatable? How should architects around the world approach designing a future that is likely to include more disasters? What materials, strategies and collaborative efforts will be most useful and effective? For more information, we enlisted the help of Ariane Fehrenkamp, ​​senior project manager at Perkins & Will, a global design firm with studios in the US, Canada, UK, Denmark, China and in Brazil.

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