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Is it time to rethink on urban design post hurricane Harvey & Irma?

We recently witnessed two of the most destructive hurricanes in America’s history – hurricane Harvey and Irma. More than 100 people reported to have been killed across the impacted area in Texas and Caribbean. 28,000 square miles of land around Houston was covered in water due to flooding and over 16 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are known to be without power, such is the devastating impact of these hurricane. According to Joel Meyers, President of AccuWeather, estimated damage caused by Harvey & Irma combined could range around $290 billion. The obvious question that comes to mind is, have we failed to plan our urban infrastructure? Or has the severity of natural disaster exceeded what we planned for?

Before we make a conclusion, we need to understand how typically the Architectural and Civil structures are designed to prepare city for natural calamities – may it be hurricane or flooding.

Anticipating Severity –
City planners or simply put, engineers working on various aspects of urban infrastructure development has a big role to play in planning. May it be with regards to Road layout, Residential and Commercial site development or Drainage design, every single aspect of urban infrastructure should be planned anticipating severity of natural calamities. As per current standards, the severity of calamity in the region is classified based on historical events occurred in that region. For event like hurricane, its severity is classified as 10yrs, 50yrs, 100yrs, 500yrs and 1000yrs. Floods like 500yrs or 1000yrs are anticipated on its probability of occurrence in the region, for example – experts estimate that in any given year, there is a 1 in 500yrs (0.2percent) chance a flood of this severity will strike the region.

But this anticipation is purely on historical data, classification of severity might change region to region. In table below, you can see that flood classified as 500yrs level in certain region, is predicted to happen every 10yrs in other region.

Source: Harris County Flood Control District.
Source: Harris County Flood Control District.

Coming back to our basic question about urban infrastructure planning and estimating severity of natural disaster, these are subjective to historical events and we need to reconsider the region wise severity classifications based on probabilities of its occurrences.

Why Revise Severity Classification?
For a simple reason, considering the recent history, major events leading to mass destruction has increased with its probability of occurrence. Continuing with the same old probability will not help us prepare for upcoming disasters.
Melting Globe

There are multiple reasons why we are experiencing these events, and climate change is a major and most important of them. We all know, increasing global warming has been impacting the environment in multiple ways leading to warmer climate. The rapid growth of concreate jungles worldwide has added to it. Concrete, pavements and large buildings in urban areas drastically reduces the capacity of land to absorb the rain waters, allowing it to pour in low laying areas, causing flood. Naturally the calamities coming our way in future will be more destructive and frequent. And to be prepared for these in advance is the only way forward.

City planners need to consider this and layout better urban designs with stricter regulations which shall prepare to take on larger destructive events. We at Indovance Inc, have the expertise and vision for better future. Our Civil and Architecture drafting/design team helps our client to build sustainable infrastructure for generations to come considering all aspects. If you want to know more about our work and how can we partner and assist you, get in touch with us at +1 919-238-4044 or write us at [email protected]

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