Party Walls

NYC Walks the Line Toward Hurricane Joaquin

It’s October and a burgeoning category 3 hurricane is forecasted to make its way up the East Coast within the coming week. Somehow this all seems familiar.

It’s been 3 years since Superstorm Sandy came ashore in the New York Metro Area. Much of the damage has been repaired and structures rebuilt, but have we done enough to mitigate the impact of a similar catastrophe? I think we can all agree that likely, we have not. However, progress has been made, and at SWA, we have been working hard over the past 3 years to improve the strength of our buildings through providing resiliency assessments and remediation planning. It’s not a fix-all for the region, but it has helped some buildings to implement upgrades that might make a big difference in the next week.

Since the 2012 storm, SWA’s consultants have conducted dozens of resiliency assessments throughout NYC, which include an investigation of previous Sandy-related damage and repairs, and assessing property vulnerabilities based on site location and characteristics, as well as building design and configuration. Because the particulars of each property are unique, and economic constraints must be considered, the proposed resiliency solutions need to be carefully evaluated for function, reliability, and cost. Basic measures include dry flood-proofing, moving vulnerable equipment and systems to a location above the design flood elevation; wet flood-proofing, creating flood-proof spaces within the below grade portions of the building to house vulnerable equipment; and barrier systems intended to hold flood waters back from the building perimeter; or, a combination of the three.

The primary goal of resiliency measures is to enhance life-safety, ensure only minimal disruption, and enable buildings to be safely and reliably occupied immediately after a storm. Assessment and subsequent recommendations are categorized as immediate, mid-term and long-term, based on need, economics, and the properties’ physical condition and related capital needs. Some potential measures can also provide ancillary benefits such as using a combined heat and power (CHP) system in lieu of an emergency generator, which in turn further improves the economics of the resiliency improvements.

In a not too distant past, October in New York evoked thoughts of baseball playoffs, apple picking, and leaf peeping. Recently though, there have been more years with substantial hurricanes than years in which the Mets have made the playoffs. The good news though is that the inhabitants of this region have historically used adversity and hardship as an opportunity to innovate and improve their surroundings, as is being done now with improving the resiliency of our buildings.

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