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Thinking about the various problems our country’s infrastructure faces and the extreme weather events that are demolishing everything in their path – I’ve decided that everyone agrees on two things -

1.  There will be extreme weather events.

2. Our homes and buildings do not offer safety during these extreme events.

AND

3. Our infrastructure of bridges, dams, city buildings and transportation resources are in either disrepair or fundamentally flawed (such as using un-reinforced masonry in over 85% of all city buildings).

The third item is known by most people and agreement to that fact is there, but many are concerned that the costs are prohibitive to do anything about it.

Every home in America that is likely to be subjected to tornadoes, must be built differently in order to withstand it – but until that can be accomplished economically, the only safe measure is to require that every home, business, school and government building have a safe room, underground storm cellar or shelter, basement or above ground storm resistant safe room within the structure of the home or building.

It isn’t going to happen however. It isn’t going to be done. No amount of persuasion has made any difference despite the vast number of tornadoes across many areas of the United States with deaths, permanent maiming of people and complete destruction of every structure within the tornado’s path.

In areas where flood plains have been used for buildings, homes, industry and even townships, there has been no efforts to remove those to higher ground that have amounted to much more than a few here and there. Despite every evidence to the contrary, it is popular to entertain the idea that it will never flood, and it will never happen. But, it does – and each year, there are devastating stories of those homes, businesses, crops, towns and lives being uprooted and permanently altered by this flooding – both in areas of the floodplains where things have been built and in areas nearby which would have been saved had the flooding been allowed to simply fill those floodplains instead.

Storm surges from hurricanes, massive wildfires and extraordinary winds have made extreme events even more dire for vast regions of our nation and yet no changes in building methods, building materials, architectural choices, building codes and reasonable preparation for such events have occurred – simply none of any real substance. Where storm surges from hurricanes have wiped out homes and taken lives, those areas are rebuilt as if that event never occurred and would never occur again – regardless of the facts in defiance of that.

Building codes are not being changed to demand that homes on coastal areas be built above the storm surge level, if at all – and building methods which could be utilized to limit the impacts of those storm surges and hurricane force winds are not being utilized. It doesn’t matter what has been shown to work for those areas in re-styling homes and business buildings, the new lower prices of many novel building materials and methods that could be used and the vast number of architects and structural engineers saying that change must happen – it just isn’t making any difference. Developers, individual home owners, building owners, local politicians, decision-makers and contractors are simply continuing to build these things in that same way as always without any change at all.

However, I’ve been thinking some about it and putting together a few of the new materials that seem like a promising alternative to retro-fit existing structures before an event and to re-build structures to be safer for future extreme events.

This is one that looks pretty good – it could be incorporated into homes and commercial buildings without a tremendous added cost -

Milliken Concrete Cloth

http://concretecloth.milliken.com/Pages/home.aspx

The unique structure of Concrete Cloth facilitates ease of installation. Cement mix is trapped in a flexible 3D fabric, backed with a waterproof layer. The fabric can be hung vertically, laid in trenches, or cut and formed into shapes to create a durable layer of concrete, all without the need for molds or mixers. Wet the fabric to activate the cement, and within 24 hours, the product has cured to 80% strength.

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And another one – after I mention this – many people in America have the idea that there is nothing that can be done about Mother Nature – but that is a lie. Mankind has been doing this about Mother Nature for the entire length of our existence – that is why we live in houses instead of laying out under the trees somewhere. People have invented, designed, innovated, created, engineered and built massive numbers of things to “do something about Mother Nature” from levees and dams to housing structures and buildings such that we can survive and thrive.

This one is exciting to me because it tackles the problem in another manner while producing something which also has the potential to provide a novel building material that could assist in extreme event resistance -

Recycling Carbon Dioxide to Make Plastics

http://ht.ly/ldkDA

Conventional production of plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The Novomer process reduces the use of these fuels by replacing up to half of the mass of the petroleum-based product with CO2. Capital requirements and operational costs to produce the new polymers closely mirror conventional production costs, and the products demonstrate increased strength and environmental resistance relative to existing polymers. Incorporation into existing formulations results in packaging foams with higher tensile strength and load-bearing capacity, and adhesives and coatings with improved adhesion, cohesive strength, and “weatherabilty” properties, such as UV- and water-resistance.

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I truly believe that one possibility exists in wrapping buildings with some sort of architectural carbon fiber product with or without a polymer – possibly making an un-reinforced masonry building into one in which the facade would stay in place and possibly withstand extreme wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. It could be a possibility for schools and hospitals to have additional material strength to survive these events with an economical upfront cost. I was thinking that I had read once about something like this being used in California on historic buildings that couldn’t be re-built entirely just to be earthquake resistant.

Here is little bit about one team that has created that type of architectural fabric for application to historic structures to make them earthquake resistant – could it make buildings wind, tornado and hurricane resistant giving people a better chance of safety?

Seismic Fabric Could Make Buildings Safer During Earthquakes

The developers of the material, Lothar Stempniewski and Moritz Urban, have been working for years on a low-cost reinforcement option for buildings in danger from earthquakes, and they are glad to see their product become what they call a “concrete innovation.” The company that is bringing the material out of the lab and into buildings is Italian building materials manufacturer Röfix. They have included the fabric itself, and the plaster for adhering it to walls in the product line. The stiffness and tensile strength of the material are what gives the walls of buildings added resilience during an earthquake, offering added support that should delay or prevent damage in minor earthquakes.

Right now the material is designed to applied to the exterior brick or stone walls of buildings, but researchers are currently working on versions for concrete and interior walls.

(via Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

http://www.geekosystem.com/seismic-fabric-for-buildings/

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There are other options as well – construction methods of glue and screw could leave fewer surfaces for the wind to take over the structure and some of the other new materials show a lot of promise as well with a reasonable price tag at this point. So why would things simply continue to be done in the same way that is known to have resulted in devastation during these extreme events? What can be done about that?

- cricketdiane

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