What We’ve Learned 4 Years After Hurricane María
September 21, 2021 AD&V
Landscape of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR |  AD&V® is dedicated to advanced and energy-efficient sustainable architecture & interior design that enhances people’s experience of the world and improves their lives.

THIS WEEK MARKS THE 4-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HURRICANE MARÍA MAKING LANDFALL ON THE ISLAND.

In September 2017, Puerto Rico faced Hurricane María as a category 4 hurricane that brought large storm surges, very heavy rains, and wind gusts well above 100 mph. María destroyed homes, entire neighborhoods and businesses, limited access to clean water and food, crippled the island’s power grid, and caused thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave their homes. An estimated 2,975 fatalities and over $90 billion dollars in damages  occurred as a result of the hurricane.

After María, Puerto Rico has become more resilient and continues to recover. This is what we’ve learned four years after Hurricane María:

1. RESILIENT BUILDING

Resilient design means resilient communities. Resilient design is the calculated design of buildings and other structures or spaces to make them able to withstand natural or man-made disasters and recover rapidly.

A resilient building can endure both normal, everyday use as well as disaster scenarios that are probable in that area. Having a resilient home will allow you to maintain livable or workable conditions during interruptions in basic services (electricity, water, etc.) and disturbances resulting from climate change and natural disasters.

2. FOLLOWING THE BUILDING CODES

Building codes protect public welfare by regulating design and construction practices, materials, location, occupancy and maintenance of buildings and structures. Structures that are made following the latest building codes can withstand extreme circumstances, such as hurricane conditions consisting of strong winds, impact from flying objects, rains, and floods.

By making structures more resistant to damage caused by natural and man-made disasters, building codes reduce the number of deaths and injuries and save billions of dollars in property.

3. INVESTING IN RENEWABLE ENERGY

Power outages happen when hurricanes and other natural disasters hit land. While emergency generators remain a good support for short-term power loss, other sustainable and renewable energy systems can provide long-term value.

Luckily, a growing alternative energy industry is making renewable technology, such as solar panels and solar thermal systems, available to more people. Scaling down dependence on oil-based fuels by reducing daily energy consumption patterns in your home, evaluating alternative energy systems, and managing a backup system, will help you get through an emergency.

4. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES

There are many financial and programming resources available to help you make your home safer. Funding can be provided to homeowners or residential building owners through loans, grants, or by participating in a program administered by a federal, state, municipal, or non-profit organization.

Funding resilient upgrades – ranging from direct grants, subsidies, and loans – may be available for housing repair and construction. Taking advantage of the different types of resources and assistance available will give you the opportunity to repair and prepare your home for natural and man-made disasters.

5. BEING PREPARED

Being prepared is the key to successfully overcoming natural disasters. This is why the Keep Safe Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities by Enterprise Community Partners was created.

To educate both working professionals and the general public on how to be better prepared for the next disaster. Through the lessons learned from this guide, we can be better prepared and more self-aware that the decisions we all make can affect not only ourselves but also our community at large.

MORE THAN REBUILDING

Four years after Hurricane María, we learned that rebuilding after a natural disaster is much more than simply raising up damaged or destroyed structures. We learned that rebuilding is ultimately about long-term resiliency, sustainability, and preparedness. Supporting each other as human beings within our shared communities will also help us become better prepared to survive future natural disasters.

FURTHER READING: 6 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SURFSIDE BUILDING COLLAPSE 

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