Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Masonry for Hurricane-Prone Areas

With changing climate, coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events.  Hurricane Sandy serves as one example demonstrating the vulnerability of heavily populated coastal areas to these threats.

The masonry system described on this blog lends itself very well to meeting the challenges coastal areas face with our changing climate.  The same set of manufactured interlocking triangular concrete block can be employed in a number of applications suitable to withstand the conditions expected in these vulnerable coastal areas.  This masonry system is very high strength, affordable, easy to install, offers extensive design flexibility, and can employ steel reinforcement for additional strength and hardening.

Some of the applications which will effectively address the threats posed in coastal areas by changing climate include:

·         Residential structures – Entire homes can be built, including the roof.  This high strength configuration will withstand sustained hurricane-force winds, storm surges, flying debris, and much more. 

·         Safe rooms – A safe room can be economically provided for individual residences.  In the event of a hurricane or bad storm, this will provide a safe refuge from extreme weather.  Safe rooms are built above ground, to minimize threat of flooding and storm surges.

·         Levees – these can be inexpensively and effectively installed to contain rising seas.  Our interlocking masonry system can be assembled with rebar to create steel reinforced concrete walls at low cost.  By simply adding extra layers of brick (known as wythes) the levee wall can be made substantially thicker, stronger, taller and more robust.  Levees can also be tied in to pilings driven deep into the ground for added stability and anchorage.

·         Community safe rooms – Large safe rooms available to the public can help provide safe shelter for renters, homeless people, and anyone else left vulnerable in a hurricane.

·         First responder facilities – Firemen, ambulances, police and other first responders can have their facilities strengthened and made more resilient to extreme weather events and other emergency situations by using this protective masonry system. 

·         Retaining walls, culverts, channels and water divertment – Surface water can have a dramatic erosive effect on land features.   Strategic placement of retaining walls, culverts, and other topological masonry features can help direct the flow of surface water in cases of flooding and storm surges to minimize the negative impacts of erosion.

·         Fresh water storage – Emergency water storage can be easily located throughout populated areas  to provide stores of fresh, potable water in the aftermath of hurricanes and other debilitating extreme weather events which can incapacitate public water supplies.

·         Waste treatment facilities – Reinforced domes and arches can provide protection to waste treatment facilities.  This will help stop the spread of unhealthy raw sewage in the event of flooding, storm surges, and other extreme weather events; it will keep the facilities in a functioning state.

·         Nuclear power site protection – Certain vulnerable, critical-to-function components of nuclear power plants can be protected with this masonry system.  This includes emergency generator protection, such as those at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, which were left incapacitated by the tsunami, resulting in uncontrolled meltdowns of reactor cores.

This masonry system is easily, quickly and inexpensively provided to coastal areas vulnerable to threats of hurricanes, rising seas and other extreme weather events.  A multitude of concrete block plants are located along coastal areas across the globe.  The infrastructure required to provide this exceptional masonry system is already in place: they simply change molds to make this system available.

This masonry system provides an effective, affordable, efficient, environmentally appropriate means to create sustainable, resilient, attractive communities better able to withstand the threats posed by our changing climate.