The New South Wales bushfires that have been ravaging parts of Australia since September 2019 have inspired a group of local architects to provide disaster relief in a manner fitting of their profession, free of charge. There are currently over 200 registered architects and over 400 architecture students volunteering to represent Architects Assist (AA), a nonprofit organization that, according to their website, is dedicating their resources and collective expertise to "to enable those affected by the present and future disasters to rebuild their lives, either by themselves or with help from the community, at once or in stages, with minimum amount of money." The nonprofit will respond to inquiries on their website by connecting those affected with members of the design team to determine how best they can help. In most cases, its members will plan and design structures to replace what individuals, small business and communities have lost to the fires. The design outcomes, the organization ensures, will be resilient to future natural disasters, comprised of sustainably-sourced materials, spatially efficient, and as inexpensive as possible to construct. The group was established by Jiri Lev of Atelier Jiri Lev, a local architecture firm specializing in sustainable building, urban design, and humanitarian work. "With the growing scale of the disaster," Architects Assist explains, "it soon became obvious that the resources of individual firms will not be sufficient to assist all those requiring help, and so Architects Assist was established." The group operates as a country-wide network rather than as an organization with a central office, to address the fact that many of the fires are located in regions without a surplus of architecture offices to provide services. Architects Assist has already enlisted a significant number of registered architects and students since forming on January 3, and are still seeking potential volunteers to apply on their website.
Posts tagged with "Disaster Relief":
Amidst the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Michael on the 1,200-person town of Mexico Beach, Florida, one house emerged from the 155-mph winds relatively unscathed. As the New York Times reported, the 3-story house built by Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle Russell King was the only one remaining on his beachfront block and one of the few left standing in the flattened landscape of the Florida Panhandle town. The house, ironically dubbed the "Sand Castle" and designed by architect Charles A. Gaskin, was completed just this year. Florida windstorm code for this part of the state requires houses to be built for 120-mph winds, but the Sand Castle was designed for 240 to 250-mph winds. The entire house was built on top of 40-foot-tall pilings to allow for storm surge, and its walls are made of poured concrete reinforced by rebar, with steel cables throughout the structure and extra concrete reinforcing the house's corners. Rather than privilege window views, an expected feature of a vacation home, the number of window openings was limited and the roof overhang was minimized, thus reducing the risk of winds lifting the entire roof off. Lackey told CNN that other features that he and his uncle had originally wanted, like a balcony, were also discouraged by their engineer. In the end, the damage sustained by the house was the loss of an outdoor stair, which, along with the siding covering it, was designed to tear off without harming the rest of the building. The ground floor pavers and entryway features were also ripped away, along with a window and a heating unit, and water damage is evident in the building, according to the house's Facebook page. But, as Lackey and King told the Times, these repairs are estimated to take a month. This is far from the case for the rest of the town, which took the hardest hit from the storm and has lost many of its older structures, built before the 2002 code was put into place. Still, for most of Mexico Beach, a largely working-class community, the cost of hurricane-proofing the way that Lackey and King did would have been prohibitive. The measures implemented in the Sand Castle home double the cost of construction per square foot, according to the architect. The quiet town, which has eschewed major waterfront development and prohibited structures taller than five stories, now faces the hard task of rebuilding or making the painful choice to leave the area entirely. The long road to recovery raises the familiar questions that Hurricanes Andrew, Irma, and Harvey have also provoked in recent years. Those who rebuilt after Irma, for instance, have had a hard time finding enough experienced contractors to rebuild to code and local inspectors to check their work, with many still waiting for FEMA assistance and insurance payouts. With FEMA's budget cut by $10 million and transferred to ICE this summer, the path ahead might be even longer. For architects, their role in designing homes that can withstand extreme weather events is perhaps more urgent than ever. Last year, of the roughly 800,000 single-family homes that were built, only 8 percent had concrete frames, a feature that would help them withstand such weather conditions. In ten years, only about 8,000 homes have met the insurance industry standard for a roof that wouldn't leak or tear off during a hurricane. Homeowners may understand the importance of building resilient homes, but the incentive for developers is much lower. Scaling up the innovations for resilient new construction while keeping them affordable is perhaps the field's greatest challenge.
Last Thursday, September 7, the Senate approved legislation to raise the debt limit and allow for an additional $15.3 billion in disaster relief funds. About half of this – $7.4 billion – will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond to the wreckage incurred by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma these past weeks. Another half will be allocated to Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These block grants are a core part of HUD's mission to provide affordable housing, create programs benefiting low- to medium-income households, encourage community development, and make improvements to infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods. However, Community Development Block Grants and its Disaster Relief Program are cut from President Trump's proposed 2018 budget. The disaster relief money would specifically come from flexible grants, the CDBG-Disaster Recovery funds, but by and large, these funds go to to private homeowners, not renters. 70% of the funds must go to low-income households. Renters can apply for disaster vouchers through HUD's Disaster Voucher Program – although the seat for the position overseeing this program is currently vacant, and the Trump administration hasn't nominated anybody for the role. Although Congress still hasn't approved the 2018 budget cuts, funding for HUD's block grants has already been decreasing over the years – according to CityLab's reporting, "by 80% since 1979 in 2016 dollars." It's worth noting that the block grants also aren't a perfect solution – they calculate need based on a formula dating back to 1974. But their proposed elimination leaves us wondering what assistance will be available to low-income households outside of FEMA funds, which can have a notoriously slow trickle-down.
In the immediate aftermath of the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal, Shigeru Ban did what he does after so many natural disasters and conflicts: He offered to help. Ban announced that his Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) would immediately get to work distributing tents to be used for homes and medical centers. As the situation on the ground stabilized, VAN would transition to building homes and community facilities. Ban has now unveiled what these new structures will look like. They are designed to go up quickly and be constructed at little cost. In Nepal, that means using the rubble brick from the earthquake to fill in modular wooden frames. The firm explained: "This simple construction method enables anyone to assemble the wooden frames very quickly and if a roof (a truss made of local paper tubes) is secured on top, and the wooden structure covered with a plastic sheet, people can immediately begin to inhabit the shelters. Afterwards, people can stack the rubble bricks inside the wooden frames and slowly complete the construction themselves." The first prototype is expected to be completed next month. You can donate to the effort here.
Shigeru Ban, the Pritzker Prize laureate known for his humanitarian work, is lending his design talents to earthquake-ravaged Nepal. Ban's Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) will start by distributing tents that can serve as shelter and medical stations. Then, over the next few months as conditions in the country stabilize, VAN will expand its presence by working with local universities to build housing and community facilities that are based on the prototypes of Ban's other post-disaster work. In a 2013 Ted Talk (below), Ban explains his humanitarian work, which started 20 years ago, when he built shelters made out of recycled paper tubes for Rwandan refugees. https://youtu.be/q43uXdOKPD8 To donate to VAN's current efforts in Nepal, visit Shigeru Ban's website. [h/t ArchRecord]
Churches and synagogues are among the structures that suffered considerable damage from Hurricane Sandy, and while several non-profit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, houses of worship will not be eligible for aid because of a constitutional separation of church and state. A group of Jewish organizations is not giving up and continues to apply for grants. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman has presented an amendment to the Hurricane Sandy recovery appropriations bill to add houses of worship to the list of eligible organizations. (Photo: David Sundberg / ESTO)
Archability, an online database for architecture and design match-making, is showing support for the victims of Hurricane Sandy with its “Building Relief” campaign. The site has pledged to donate half of all sales now through January 22 to Habitat for Humanity’s Disaster Response initiative. The site is also asking architects selected for projects through Archability’s services to contribute 15 percent of their commissions to the campaign. “As a New York resident this tragedy hit particularly close to home, so starting a relief program just seemed natural," Livingstone Mukasa, Archability founder and CEO, said in a statement. "We want to utilize Archability's global talent pool to increase awareness and provide financial assistance to the victims who are in a difficult rebuilding process. Habitat for Humanity provides the perfect channel for helping repair and construct homes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”
To benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy, New York City designers are hosting a furniture auction, selling pieces made from the storm’s reclaimed materials. The silent auction, Reclaim NYC, is organized by AN alumna Jennifer Krichels Gorsche, writer Jean Lin, and designer Brad Ascalon will sell the work of more than twenty artists who have all pledged to donate proceeds to the American Red Cross in Greater New York. The pieces range from tables and chairs to lighting fixtures to art objects. Some designers have even represented themes of the storm and flooding in their work and will continue to include these themes in upcoming work. Reclaim NYC will take place on December 19 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Ligne Roset’s SoHo showroom, located at 155 Wooster Street. Participating Designers as of December 4, 2012:
|Lindsey Adelman Brad Ascalon Dror Benshetrit Bittersweets Elodie Blanchard Bec Brittain Kevin Michael Burns Evan Clabots DMFD Joe Doucet Fort Standard Dan Golden||Danny Greenfield Stephane Hubert Brian McGowan Kiel Mead Daniel Moyer Brendan Mullins Shannon South Suzanne Tick Uhuru UM Project Alex Valich VOLK Furniture|