Externalizing recovery to victims and survivors

We design infrastructure and buildings to a standard that has the effect of shifting the costs and impacts of extreme events to the victims and survivors.

We do this unconsciously because we have been trained to think that the only way to be resilient is to resist events of a certain size.  Resistance is not sufficient. According to the New York Times, California’s earthquake codes require that high-rise buildings be built to resist strong shaking so that 90 percent of the buildings will avoid collapse. “Ten percent of buildings will collapse,” said Lucy Jones, the former leader of natural hazards research at the United States Geological Survey who is leading a campaign to make building codes in California stronger. “I don’t understand why that’s acceptable.”

Faulty thinking that resistance is the only way to be resilient applies equally to storms, winds, floods, and landslides.  We plan to resist events of a certain size based on the climate of the past and then presume it is up to God, FEMA, and local disaster planners to pick up the pieces.

Why is it acceptable that we externalize the cost of recovery to the victims and survivors of extreme events when they are the least prepared to deal with the impacts to their homes, the businesses, their communities?

In this short 10-minute video from ‘The Role of Advanced Technologies in Structural Engineering for More Resilient Communities” I argue that we need to be taking a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach to community resilience.  Designers can still select a storm of a certain intensity but then add in consideration of which option helps our communities to recover most quickly when that rare event finally does occur.

Give it a look.

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