Disaster Resilience

Concrete stays standing more often than alternative building materials in the face of disaster, reducing the need for reconstruction and enabling communities to recover more quickly.

In a world in which natural disasters are increasingly common, building structures that are resilient to flooding and high wind events is a key component of economic, societal and environmental sustainability. Often, such buildings are built from concrete, as its durability makes it more able to survive disasters, reducing the need for (and therefore cost and speed of) post-disaster reconstruction.

As a result, demand for raw materials in reconstruction is lowered, as is the production of demolition waste, both of which lower potential greenhouse gas emissions. Most importantly, concrete supports the recovery of communities, as businesses can return to operation and occupants to housing more quickly.

Storm events, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and other high wind events have devastating impacts on buildings and their occupants. Concrete and masonry are more resistant to high winds and to damage/penetration by wind-borne objects. Indeed, many concrete buildings, such as schools, hospitals have or become safe room shelters in storm events. Moreover, according to MIT researchers, concrete-engineered building in coastal regions shows cost savings when hazard costs are incorporated into evaluations with affected communities spending less energy and fewer resources on emergency response, reconstruction, repair, and recovery.

Floods exert huge pressure on buildings, while debris carried by floodwaters – as well as the dynamic forces of the water itself – place additional strain on structures. The rigid nature of concrete and its high density, however, enables it to endure high water pressures; concrete buildings therefore often survive flooding. Survival rates of 50% or more can be shown for concrete structures facing an 8m wave, steel facing a 5m high wave, and wood facing only a 2m high wave. As with high wind events, concrete buildings also often provide shelter and prevent deaths caused by flooding.

Header photo by Paul Mocan on Unsplash