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Storm Vulnerability A Factor In Post-Sandy Building Designs

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As the city continues to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy, architects and engineers are busy looking at ways to re-design buildings to protect residents from the next potential storm. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

It’s been six months since Hurricane Sandy and as many continue to rebuild developers and city officials are rethinking the way we live to protect our infrastructure in the event of another storm.

"There are very good minds working on the issue and the issues are complicated. So for instance in the building congress there are seven different committees dealing with everything from infrastructure to codes and regulations. And the city has a taskforce comprised of 30 entities that are all looking at this," says Patricia Lancaster of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.

When it come to buildings, Patricia Lancaster and Richard Lambeck of NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate say we are seeing a radical change in the way owners are thinking.

For one, new plans are emerging to protect building operating systems, transformers and emergency generator tanks. Many are suggesting they be moved to higher floors or the roof which could be an issue for some building owners as it takes away from rentable space.

"Or possibly the other alternative is to contain them in a vessel so that water cannot penetrate those particular items. The other things they are looking at is some type of doors to so if there is a flood, water will not penetrate through those particular doors. They are looking at submarine type doors," explains Lambeck.

"Another change you might see in building code is with regard to data and fiber optic cable and communications so that will likely change to protect it and make it more resilient," says Lancaster.

And just like with homes, for new buildings there is talk of raising the first floor so lobbies are at a higher level, which could prevent flooding but could also change the streetscapes we are used to.

"If you raise the floor say two feet of some of the buildings it's going to change the way we are going to perceive that building. So it's going to change the urban fabric in ways we haven't anticipated yet," says Lancaster.

As for retrofits, building owners will have to consider resilient measures like floodwalls around a building and special doors to seal off vulnerable areas.

Most of these changes will require modifications to building codes and zoning regulations.

Next month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release a report that should outline the city's plan and officially set us on track to a new level of preparedness.

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