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Harvey and Irma: Hurricanes, Floods, and the Days After

They call it hurricane season. That time of year when tropical depressions form off the west coast of Africa somewhere north of the equator. The rotation of the earth and the prevailing winds cause these low-pressure pockets to migrate slowly westward, and if conditions are apt, pick up strength along the way.

As deadly and destructive as hurricane winds are, it is typically the associated water that causes the most physical damage: horizontal rain at 100 mph overwhelming already stressed buildings, prolonged periods of heavy rain inundating drainage infrastructure, and coastal storm surges pushing tidal waters many feet above normal.

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. Courtesy NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERS

As of this writing Hurricane Irma is just north of Puerto Rico with Category 5, 185 mph winds. And Harvey, a rain event lasting days and dumping up to 50 inches of rain ravaged Texas and Louisiana one week ago. Because of where and how we chose to build our communities, these disaster events will remain inevitable. There are concrete steps we can and should take to improve the resiliency and disaster resistance of the buildings we build, but in reality, much of what we built in the past is disaster prone and not resilient. Read more

Game Changers in Building Science

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth last week at Greenbuild 2015 in Washington, D.C.! By all accounts, this year’s event was a great success. In case you missed it, our fearless leader, Steven Winter, spoke at the GAF booth on Wednesday. As an architect who has been practicing building science for the past 50 years, he shared insights about some building science innovations that he thinks have been “game changers” and have intrigued him: they are changing the way we design, build and operate buildings.

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Here are the highlights:

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Stamford 2030 District Commits to a Sustainable Future

The Stamford 2030 District is an interdisciplinary collaborative of high-performance buildings in downtown Stamford committed to ambitious efficiency goals. Stamford 2030 District’s strategic plan outlines a series of interim sustainability goals guiding the city towards 50% reduction in energy use, water consumption, and CO2 emissions for existing buildings and infrastructure, and full carbon neutrality for all new construction by 2030. Watch the video to hear key program stakeholders discuss success measures, including SWA’s Gayathri Vijayakumar on the role of benchmarking, and Mayor David Martin on public-private-nonprofit community participation.

A Tour of DURA, New York City College of Technology’s Urban and Resilient Solar Decathlon Home

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the DURAhome, New York City College of Technology’s entry for the 2015 Solar Decathlon. This project is currently nearing completion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Over the past 3 months, more than sixty students have toiled around the clock to finish construction in time for the contest, which will take place October 8-18 in Irvine, California. The Solar Decathlon is the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial competition that challenges college and university student-led teams to design and build solar-powered net-zero homes that are affordable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically appealing.

TeamDURA’s focus was to create a prototype of post-disaster housing that is suited for New York City’s high-density urban environment, and could serve as a shelter in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm. As such, multifamily, multistory solutions were preferable to traditional single-family trailers, which have larger footprints. DURAhome consists of several prefabricated modules that can be packaged and shipped on standard-sized tractor trailers for quick response at low cost. These flexible modules can then be joined in standalone configurations or stacked for multifamily uses. Like the city, the DURAhome is diverse, urban, resilient, and adaptable.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

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Community Microgrid: Resiliency via Energy Independence

SWA Senior Mechanical Engineer Lois Arena discusses the recently announced community microgrid project based in the Village of Mamaroneck. The Westchester County village is among 83 New York communities to be awarded $100,000 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to conduct a microgrid feasibility study.

Steven Winter Associates and Murphy Brothers Contracting, along with a team of technical experts and local leaders, will assess the challenges, benefits, and costs associated with using microgrids to improve resiliency and recovery time during a significant power outage, as well as to offset peak demand energy use.

This segment is part of LMCTV‘s videocast of the Murphy Brothers Contracting “10 Steps to Ensuring Those Beautiful Custom Homes are also Comfortable, Long Lasting, and Efficient” event. Watch LMCTV’s complete coverage of the event here.