Sunday, June 24, 2012

Flood, Tsunami, Hurricane and Earthquake resistant homes

Multi storey complexes for family living in disaster prone areas
There are reasons to believe that people in the olden times had their houses constructed in such a fashion that they functioned as "Flood Resistant Homes" (FRH). This appears from the fact that the houses of the Kings in India were constructed to the height of the medium sized buildings.  It appears that current floods, tsunamis and earthquakes are challenging our present architectural system. We need innovation here just as we did in the past to face heavy rain and other environmental adversities. If we have an architectural plan in mind then people who can afford a house at a reasonable price can opt for FRH.
There must be a consideration for creating areas that are 1. Floods resistant 2. Earthquake resistant 3. Tsunami resistant.  In this area the houses will be actually multi storey and multifamily apartment complexes. Though such apartments already exist all over the world the purpose and construction of these new apartments will be different. Here, people will start living from the fourth floor. The engagement in the first three floors is discussed below. The availability of food will be in the central location of the area. It will be in the form of a commercial store, or bulk emergency food storage. The fourth floor of the building supplying food will be connected to all the other buildings at the fourth floor level. The buildings will join at a central point so that the food availability can be localized at the place of mutual association for meeting needs and also performing combined functions at the hour of floods or tsunami.
Most modern architecture is not designed for durability against natural disasters. Our building codes in flood, hurricane or earthquake prone areas are appalling and seem designed to simply boost the economy by having to replace everything - every few years. It's the mentality of maximum consumerism which is why car batteries are designed to degrade in a few short years and automobiles & computers are designed to wear down quickly so a replacement has to be bought.
It would all have to be made of reinforced concrete with the bottom three or four floors being more robust than the upper floors need to be. In order to utilize the space more efficiently, the bottom two floors could be used for parking cars or bicycles for the residents of the building. Cars can be drained out and still work fine as long as they weren't running at the time of the flood, and even then they can still be recovered. The third floor could be used to house open area facilities such as a daycare center for the families in the building where both parents have to work and will have a safe place to leave their children during the day and not be bothered by having to drive them to a daycare center. It's easily evacuated to the upper floors in the event of a flood occurring.
There could also be a small convenience store on the third floor used by the residents for short term items like milk, fresh fruit, can goods, toiletry supplies etc. There needs to be outside and inside stair access to at least the fourth floor in the event that the lower floors are flooded and people need to be rescued from the building to be taken to hospital or people coming home during a flood by boat can still access the upper floors from the outside of the building.

On the roof of the building there needs to be space for a helicopter pad for emergencies. On the upper two floors several individual water storage tanks can be kept full (pumped full from water mains) in the event of a loss of water services due to flooding infrastructure or there is a power outage. The water tanks will have a simple gravity feed system with an individual water tap running into each apartment for toilet use and washing. A small portable container with a filter is all that would be needed for drinking water and filled by hand. Several individual tanks should be considered because only one will be used at a time and a switch over to a second or third tank will be manually accomplished so that the building manager can gauge how fast they are using up the supply and if need be, only allow the water to flow for short periods of the day so that one apartment doesn't use far more than the rest and drain the entire system. A simple monitoring system counting the flow rate to each apartment could also be installed on the water line to these special taps. It could be monitored by the building manager with its own battery backup power supply to ensure someone’s tap hasn't been left on by accident and is draining all the water.
There could also be a large solar array on the roof of the building and even solar panels placed over every window to act as a sun shade for the window, and feed the power supply into a large deep cycle battery backup system capable of being activated to offer basic power requirements to the building's residents. In the mean time the power that the solar panels produce can be fed back into the grid with the revenue going to subsidize the costs of running the services of the building for the residents.
Although there are some buildings that have some of these features but they were not built with this intended purpose in mind and have problems of their own.
If city designers and housing developers would get together and consider concepts such as this, they would see the great benefits they offer. For one they would be choice accommodation due to all the important and convenient features and as such would command a high value in either rent or apartment ownership. Secondly they would subsidize the power grid and ease the strain on the entire system and thirdly they could be subsidized by the community as well to serve as emergency evacuation locations where in the event of a tsunami warning or a building flood from monsoons, even nearby residents could escape to these buildings until the danger is passed. Scattered throughout the coastal city they would offer a substantial element of security and refuge in the event of a natural disaster. These are the new concepts for improving safety and quality of life for people on the planet. We have done it earlier with strong houses, we need to do it again with ultra-strong and ultra-resistant houses.

As a method to tackle the problem of floods in developing countries high areas can be constructed. These areas can be built at a height of third storey building as a protective place to prevent self from the effects of floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. These areas can be built with least investment and can save people’s lives in the areas where houses are not strong to sustain the climate change. After a distance of every 0.5 km one high area can be constructed that can provide an easy access to helicopters. These areas should be easily visible by air so that needs can be met and rescue can take place easily. If the investment can be more then the route to reach the high area can also be made at a higher plane.

Written by Ekta K. Kalra
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