It’s official. According to a report released yesterday by the Building Resiliency Task Force at City Hall, the buildings in New York are not ready for another storm like Sandy. After last year’s hurricane, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wanted to know what could be done to improve the resiliency of the city’s buildings and prepare them for extreme weather conditions like high winds, high temperatures and flooding. Over the past four months, a group of 200+ experts, led by Urban Green Council, deliberated on how to answer these questions and came up with four specific suggestions on how commercial, multifamily residential, homes and hospital buildings could get ready for another super storm.
The report’s four recommendations involve a combination of upgrading existing codes, implementing new codes, doing retrofits of existing buildings and removing barriers for emergency volunteer work by professionals, should the need arise. The first suggestion includes requiring new and replacement doors and windows to be wind resistant, anchoring homes to their foundations, and designing sidewalks to capture storm water. The second involves making it easier for buildings to use back up generators and solar energy, requiring buildings to keep stairwells and hallways lit during blackouts and adding electric infrastructure for roll-up generators and boilers. The third suggestion is to install community water faucets for entire buildings in case of power outages, help maintain habitable temperatures during blackouts by improving building insulation, and ensure that windows open enough to both reduce overheating and guarantee child safety. The final suggestion is to create emergency plans, adopt a new city code for existing buildings and support “Good Samaritan” legislation that protects architects and engineers from liability for emergency volunteer work.
In addition to the four suggestions, the Building Resiliency Task Force came up with 33 proposals that could be used to create a blueprint for the city’s building resiliency and preparedness plan. “Superstorm Sandy was a serious wake-up call that cost billions of dollars in damages and repairs, and another extreme event is inevitable,” said Russell Unger, executive director of Urban Green Council. “We hope that Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the leaders of the next administration use the task force’s recommendations to make sure New York is protected and ready.”