Role of the ACS in building the resilient cities of the future

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Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) plays a crucial role in halting climate change and designing structures capable of dealing with the existing threats already present in longer and more severe storm systems, floods and pandemic risks. The layout of the places where people live largely determines the quality and comfort of their survival if the worst happens.

You can see the need for such innovation in recent events. Hurricanes decimated Puerto Rico, parts of Florida and South Carolina. Sea level rise threatens the integrity of coastal structures.

Preventing future harm and protecting lives will require the ACS’s coordinated effort with federal and local authorities to set new, higher standards and ensure public safety. Here is a look at five ways the AEC plays a vital role in building the resilient cities of the future.

1. Use technology to reduce costs and emissions

The technology promises sustainability benefits, which it has already begun to deliver. For example, inspecting a large construction site used to mean driving a vehicle and producing emissions while taking measurements. Today, unmanned aerial vehicles – more commonly known as drones – can take on this task while requiring far less power. It also streamlines the process, allows an overview of topography for data collection, and monitors conditions below once you start digging.

Such innovations also hold promise for helping humans weather the severe storms of climate change. For example, architects and engineers can use computerized projections to measure a building’s ability to withstand hurricane-force winds. Construction crews can construct buildings using Insulated Concrete Forms and Insulated Structural Panels to hold walls upright against a gale.

These technologies also reduce costs – an important consideration in the construction industry where increases in building material prices have stalled countless projects. Those left open to the elements can damage the existing frame, requiring replacement, which more accurate screenings can help avoid. They can also avoid overspending on materials by providing more accurate estimates.

2. Prepare for larger and more severe natural disasters

Perhaps nowhere does the AEC play a more important role in building resilient cities of the future than in designing facilities to withstand natural disasters. These often affect not just individual structures, but entire neighborhoods and cities. For example, the campfire decimated the city of paradiseCalifornia, in 2018. It killed at least 85 people and destroyed 18,000 structures.

Officials determined that the cause of the fire was vegetation turned into power lines, which caught a spark. A combination of low winds and high humidity fanned this ember into a wall of pure destruction. However, better urban design may have prevented the devastation by taking a better read of the inherent hazards of the area and designing lines with less risk of burning surrounding foliage.

Water poses such a risk in other parts of the country that many coastal areas have begun to sink and sea levels are rising. Architects and engineers can elevate new construction to let flood waters and rising tides flow safely below without harming occupants.

3. Improve urban planning to manage supply chain issues

The city is a scary place during a supply chain shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused lasting disruption that continues today and scientists fear climate change can bring more mysterious illnesses In the years to come.

The AEC can help you in several ways. Architects and engineers can design roads to handle increased traffic as people flee areas of scarcity. Additionally, the inclusion of large green spaces and community gardens in urban planning initiatives gives residents more control over the food supply, which is helpful in times of crisis.

These areas have a dual purpose. As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, outdoors is a safer place during a pandemic, as opposed to indoor structures where people share the air with strangers. Staying isolated in a small apartment during lockdowns has a devastating effect on mental health. The ability to get outside, exercise, and mingle from a distance can be vital for managing stress.

4. Keep sustainability front and center

Sustainability is essential to the continued existence of humans on planet Earth. The race is on to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and building materials and construction make up 20% annual CO2 emissions.

Fortunately, green building innovations can help. More and more architects, engineers and construction companies are now seeking LEED certification, a set of internationally recognized standards for sustainable design and techniques. The grading system includes the following broad categories:

  • Integrative process
  • Location and transportation
  • Sustainable construction sites
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Education and awareness

Fortunately, the public understands the risks associated with climate change. Ninety percent of Gen X consumers will pay more for sustainability, including where they live and rent. Millennials and Gen Z also value respect for the environment and have the most to lose from inaction.

5. Protect the safety of workers and civilians

Protecting the safety of workers and civilians is paramount in building the resilient cities of the future. AEC can help you by implementing technology solutions that eliminate many job site hazards that crews face today. For example, drones eliminate the need for workers to climb to significant heights to perform site inspections – they can stay safe and sound on the ground.

Green and weather-resistant innovations also benefit civilians. Improving indoor air quality alone can help during many types of weather in the next pandemic and prevent recurring colds and flu from making them sick as often.

AEC helps build resilient cities

The architecture, engineering and construction sectors have a huge role to play in making future life on Earth sustainable. Fortunately, technological innovations allow them to improve current processes while saving money and treading more lightly on the planet.

It is clear to see the role of the ACS in building the resilient cities of the future. The right design choices today can lead to a better and safer tomorrow.

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