May 2020 - Sachse Construction

How Can Architecture Combat Flooding? 9 Practical Solutions

Flooding is a significant problem for buildings all around the world, including architectural treasures like the Farnsworth House that have been plagued by the issue time and time again. In particular, one-third of the entire continental U.S. are at risk of flooding this spring, especially the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Deep South. Last April, deadly floods decimated parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Iran as well, resulting in a low estimate of 1,000 deaths while tens of thousands more were displaced. While architecture cannot solve or even fully protect from the most deadly floods, it is possible – and necessary – to take several protective measures that could mitigate damage and consequently save lives.

The first step to take to this end is to identify whether the home or building being designed is in an area at risk for flooding. This can be done by checking flood maps widely available online, including this site run by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. If it is, the architect and client can decide if they want to relocate or if they would like to stay and take the necessary protective measures. For those who choose the latter, we have delineated nine such measures below.

Elevate Above the Flood Level

To start, architects should build the structure above the flood level to minimize damage if a flood does occur. The flood level elevation for specific areas can be found online using programs such as the Estimated Base Flood Elevation Viewer run by FEMA. With this information, architects can discern how high to raise the building and with what method they should do so. One common way of elevating is by building the structure on columns or stilts. In other cases, the solid foundation can simply be raised higher. For more specific information on what to do, architects should assess the climate and flood history of their area and consult information available online such as this manual on coastal construction in particular.

Build with Flood Resistant Material

Flood resistant materials are those which can last in contact with flood waters for at least 72 hours without significant damage. Flood water can be both hydrostatic (standing water) and hydrodynamic (flowing water), and in most cases will result in displaced foundation walls, collapsed structures, floating fuel tanks, scouring, and more. ‘Significant damage’ suggests any damage requiring more work that cleaning or low-cost cosmetic repair, such as painting. To prevent these damages, flood resistant materials must be durable and resistant to excessive humidity. Examples include concrete, glazed brick, closed-cell and foam insulation, steel hardware, pressure-treated and marine-grade plywood, ceramic tile, water-resistant glue, polyester epoxy paint, and more.

Apply Coatings, Sealants, and Waterproof Veneer

There exist two different types of floodproofing: dry and wet. Dry floodproofing prevents the entry of flood waters, whereas wet floodproofing allows flood waters to enter the house. Coatings, sealants, and waterproof veneer belong to the former, as they prevent water from reaching the interior. A waterproof veneer can consist of a layer of brick backed up by a waterproof membrane, sealing the exterior walls against water penetration. In the interior walls, architects should use washable closed-cell foam insulation in areas below the flood level. Similarly, coatings and sealants may be applied to the foundation, walls, windows, and doorways to prevent flood water from entering the house through cracks, as these openings are rarely designed to be watertight or resist flood loads as they are.

Raise or Floodproof HVAC Equipment and Mechanical, Plumbing, and Electrical System Components

Locating service equipment above the flood protection level is generally the best way to protect it. Such equipment includes heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing appliances, plumbing fixtures, duct systems, and electrical equipment including service panels, meters, switches, and outlets. If these components are inundated in floodwater for even a short period of time, they can become severely damaged and will need to be replaced. Electrical equipment in particular can potentially cause fires if short circuited. It is best that these components are raised above the flood level, but if necessary, they may be designed to prevent damage from flooding, whether through waterproof enclosures, barriers, protective coatings, or other techniques to protect vulnerable components. For precise requirements, architects should consult municipal codes.

Anchor Fuel Tanks

Unanchored fuel tanks are easily moved by flood waters, which could drive the tank into walls, damage other property, and cause contamination if the supply line tears free and fills the water with oil. Even buried tanks can be pushed to the surface due to buoyancy. Thus, it is imperative that fuel tanks are anchored, either by attaching them to concrete slabs that are heavy enough to resist flood water forces, or by running straps over them and attaching them to ground anchors.

Install Foundation Vents or a Sump Pump

An example of wet floodproofing is to install foundation vents, which allow flood water to flow through the home rather than pool around it. While this solution may seem like a counterintuitive one due to the damage it could do to the interior of the property, it actually provides an outlet for the flood water and relieves the damaging pressure that flood water puts on the windows and walls. If the interior – usually a subgrade basement – is prepared using flood damage resistant materials, hydrostatic openings, and protected key equipment, the damage can be limited, although post-flood clean-up will be necessary. Similarly, a sump pump is a type of equipment that pumps water out of basements where flooding happens regularly. Sump pumps with battery backup are highly recommended to allow them to continue functioning when the power goes out.

Construct Permanent Barriers

Placing a permanent barrier around the structure in question can prevent flood waters from reaching it. Such barriers should be constructed using a floodwall made of concrete or masonry, or by using a levee made of compacted layers of soil with an impervious core. While this solution may seem like the simplest or most obvious, both floodwalls and levees require extensive maintenance, and levees need a significant amount of land and usable soil materials for construction.

Install Sewer Backflow Valves

Sewer backflow valves prevent flooded sewage systems from backing up into a home. In certain flood-prone areas, this issue is common, and can cause damage that is both difficult to repair and hazardous to occupants’ health. Generally, gate valves are preferred over flap valves because they provide a better seal against flood pressure.

Grade the Lawn Away from the House

One final method that architects can use to mitigate damage from flooding is to grade the lawn away from the house. If the lawn tilts toward the house, rainwater will pool around the home. Conversely, tilting it outward directs rainwater away. To this end, the lawn should use a heavy soil that contains clay content and sand, allowing the surface runoff to empty into a more appropriate place such as a street gutter.


Tech Giants Team Up to Develop ‘Building Transparency’

In an unprecedented collaboration, five technology giants and one flooring maker are showing their commitment to a healthier environment by joining the board of Building Transparency—a nonprofit formed recently to increase the impact of a free-to-use digital tool for estimating embodied carbon in buildings, called the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce, along with veteran climate-activist Interface Inc., are part of the board of BT, which took over EC3 from the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington.

May 21 marked the first meeting, online, of the 10-member BT board. The group’s goal is to engage leaders from the construction industry, manufacturing, owners and policymakers to cooperate to decarbonize the built environment. Its mission is to create an EC ecosystem in which best-of-class products, and innovation for new materials, can gain traction.

It is about “scaling impact,” says Kate Simonen, director of the decade-old Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and chair of the board of directors BT, which has three other founding board members, besides Simonen.

For EC3 to scale, it needed “a home of its own,” separate from CLF, adds Simonen, a 2019 ENR Newsmaker for her work, beginning with forming CLF, in the area of decarbonizing building production.

The tech-giant board members declined to comment at this time about their BT participation. They include Salesforce’s Amanda von Almen, Google’s Andreas Gyr, Amazon’s Julia Raisch, Microsoft’s Katie Ross and Facebook’s Lauren Bonar Swezey.

Market Power

But Phil Northcott, a BT founding board member and founder of C Change Labs, which developed the EC3 software platform, says, “We recruited a board primarily consisting of committed building owners that want to use their market power to change construction.”

Lisa Conway, Interface’s vice president of sustainability-Americas, says she joined the BT board largely because BT would house a collaborative she founded, called the “materials Carbon Action Network.”  materialsCAN raises EC awareness among manufacturers and provides EC-reduction education.

“The mission of Building Transparency is perfectly aligned with Interface’s mission – climate take back that aims to reverse global warming,” says Conway.

At the May 21 board meeting, off limits to ENR, some of the discussion centered around the reality that “a tool and a will to act are not enough to change business as usual,” says Don Davies, president of structural engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates and one of BT’s founding board members. “It also takes owner, developer and tenant leadership to establish the right stretch goals, with enough market pull to affect change,” he adds.

“This is the [board] to do just that,” says Davies. “Their collective voice is exponentially stronger than each one is individually.”

Digitized Environmental Product Declarations

Released Nov. 19 at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, EC3 is a free, open-access tool, based on the first database of digitized environmental product declarations. EPDs, which are at the heart of the tool, provide quantified environmental data for a product, including the global warming potential (GWP) from greenhouse gases emitted during material supply, manufacturing and delivery to the jobsite.

Currently EC3 contains 26,000 digitized EPDs from 789 plants in North America and Europe, owned by 293 different manufacturers, says Northcott, There are 16 material and product categories.

To date, there are more than 6,500 users. That number grows each week by 200 to 250, says Northcott.

Skanska USA and C Change Labs conceived of EC3. Skanska and Microsoft jointly funded initial development. To expand the tool, CLF incubated the project with more financial support from Autodesk, Interface, the MKA Foundation and the Charles Pankow Foundation—lead sponsor and grant manager for the $713,000 EC3 project. BT is funded by industry sponsors and philanthropies.

C Change labs is under contract with BT to continue to develop the database. Still, a search for a data expert is under way, says Stacy Smedley, a director of sustainability for Skanska USA Building, a founding board member and BT’s executive director, on loan from Skanska for one year. There also is a plan to create a permanent executive director position, says Smedley, also BT’s vice chair.

A More Global EC3 Database Coming

One goal of BT, in addition to adding more EPDs and product categories, is to create a more global database. Currently, EPDs are mostly from North American suppliers. In addition, the database will support more state and local clean-climate policies and green-building certification compliance. EC3 already has filters for Buy Clean California compliance and LEED 4.1’s low-EC construction pilot credit.

Microsoft is piloting EC3 on 3 million sq ft of new construction, including 17 buildings, at its headquarters campus in Redmond, Wash. “We’re on track to meet our goal of 15% to 30% EC reduction,” says Ross, Microsoft’s senior sustainability program manager for real estate. “We have not needed to spend more money to use lower-carbon materials.”

Salesforce and Interface are focusing on EC reduction in interiors. “There are more interior renovations than there is new construction,” says Conway.

Salesforce is building tools that it plans to share to standardize interiors-product EC evaluations. “We use our own space as a way to establish an interiors baseline,” says von Almen, Salesforce’s global head of sustainable built environments.

Looking forward, beyond the COVID-19 crisis, Simonen sums it up. “We don’t really know how the pandemic might affect the future but there already is conversation about clean climate recovery,” especially in terms of infrastructure investments, says Simonen. “This could be a real opportunity for action around embodied carbon.”

Bangladesh Company Says it Will Build Mask Factory in Detroit

Bangladesh’s Beximco Group said it will set up a plant in Detroit to make masks as demand surges for protective gear in the U.S., the nation with the most coronavirus cases.

The Dhaka-based conglomerate, which started selling the generic version of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral drug this month in the South Asian nation, will invest $20 million in the Detroit plant, said Syed Naved Husain, chief executive officer of the group’s textile business. The company will also invest $30 million on a plant at home, he said.

Beximco’s textile unit is tapping new opportunities as luxury brands from New York to Paris scrap garment orders amid the pandemic. The company expects the Detroit plant to be ready in nine months, while the one in Bangladesh will start production in four months, Husain said.

“This comes from a process we’ve been at for more than a year,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday afternoon when asked about the plan during a coronavirus response briefing.

Detroit had been recruiting a Bangladeshi company to manufacture jeans in the city, Duggan said, but when the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, the company brought in partners and pivoted to making personal protective equipment.

The company will initially supply N95 masks in Detroit before expanding to other parts of the U.S., Husain said.

“Nobody picks Detroit at random. This is a result of (Detroit Economic Growth Corp. CEO) Kevin Johnson and the DEGC team and our economic development team,” Duggan said. “I think it’s time we start to make clothes back in the United States, and we’ve been working on that for the last year or two. And I didn’t expect PPE would be the first plant to come …”

The mayor said the city is looking for a site for the factory.

Beximco said Hanesbrands Inc. bought 6.5 million personal protective equipment items from the company to supply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday.

Is CLT Really a Green Solution?

Cross-laminated timber, or CLT, is touted as a more sustainable option for building construction than concrete and steel. But is it really? The answer is complicated.

CLT is intended to replace concrete and steel whose production accounts for about 13% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Wood in CLT panels pulled CO2 from the atmosphere, and that carbon should remain locked up as long as the building stands.

Some forest scientists, climate modelers, and materials experts question how much of an environmental net gain results from using CLT to replace concrete and steel. Part of the concern relates to choices the lumber industry makes in forestry practices and manufacturing.

Lots of carbon gets dumped into the atmosphere when logs are transformed into CLT, they say. Sawmills and CLT plants typically burn bark, sawdust, and other wood wastes for heat, releasing carbon. Piles of branches, treetops, and smaller trees left behind after a harvest are often burned or left to decompose—releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

When it comes to combating global climate change, the mantra of “wood is good” may be simplistic.

Which Materials are Easiest to Recycle?

The construction industry is responsible for 75% of the consumption of earth’s natural resources. Stone, sand, iron, and many other finite resources are extracted in huge quantities to supply the markets. Additionally, construction sites themselves generate enormous quantities of waste, whether through construction, demolition, or remodeling. In Brazil, for example, construction waste can represent between 50% and 70% of the total mass of municipal solid waste [1]. This waste often ends up in landfills and dumps rather than being properly disposed of, overwhelming municipal sanitation systems and creating informal disposal sites.

If more care is taken, however, this waste could have enormous potential for reuse. If given proper destinations and processed correctly, recycled materials can replace those extracted from deposits to form new building components, maintaining a quality generally comparable to traditional materials.

Recycling is the process of reusing discarded materials to reintroduce them into the production cycle. This process reduces the consumption of raw materials, decreases the total volume of waste, and can create jobs for thousands of people. To start the process, an efficient separation and collection system is essential. Although the classifications are different in every country, two major classes generally exist. The first includes concrete, ceramics, stone, and mortar, which represent most construction waste. The other class concerns wood, metal, glass, plastic, plaster, and more. Here are the most common materials to recycle and what uses they often have:


Steel can be made from the combination of iron ore and coal, which is heated in a blast furnace, or by recycling scrap, which is made in an electric furnace. The recycling of steel goes back to the Roman Empire, when soldiers collected instruments of war left in trenches to produce new weapons. In fact, steel can be endlessly transformed into new objects without loss of quality. When recycled, the consumption of electricity lowers by 80%, causing a lower environmental impact and eliminating completely the extraction of raw materials.

Rebar for reinforced concrete, wires, nails, and some metal profiles are generally made from scrap metal.


Recycling concrete allows construction waste to be reused and construction costs to be reduced. In recycling hardened concrete, a special crusher is used and produces what is known as “recycled aggregate”. Until recently, recycled concrete was only used as a subfloor. But tests are showing that concrete aggregate can create structural elements from 30 up to 40 MPa with the right technologies. Importantly, recycled aggregates are also anywhere from ten to fifteen percent lighter per unit of volume than virgin concrete, which entails less weight per cubic meter and thus less material, transportation, and overall project costs.


Using “reclaimed wood” has become quite popular. Hardwoods can last hundreds of years, if kept properly. They can be used in large structural parts or as slats for the manufacture of other artifacts such as crates, pallets, or supports for various purposes. But even softer, cheaper woods can be recycled, especially as a raw material for the panel industry. The most common use of recycled wood today occurs with the complete grinding of wood and manufacture of MDF sheets for the production of woodwork.

Another option, if none of the above processes can be applied, is to dispose of wood waste for biomass production by burning it in industrial furnaces.


Recycling plaster in construction is feasible, but if it is improperly disposed of, it can emit flammable and highly toxic hydrogen sulphide, contaminating the soil and groundwater. However, if suitably processed, recycled plaster retains the same physical and mechanical characteristics as conventional plaster at a relatively low cost.


Expanded polystyrene, or EPS, is a material that can be recycled as well. EPS becomes a raw material for the manufacture of new plastic products when it is crushed and compacted. It can be used for finishes or even paints.


Although glass bottles and containers are highly recyclable, the recycling of window glass faces a series of additional complications. Due to its different chemical composition and melting temperature, it cannot be recycled alongside other glass objects, including other types of window glass itself. Window glass can, however, be melted and remanufactured into fiberglass, to be incorporated into asphalt or even combined in yellow and white reflective road paints. Broken glass can be combined with concrete to create floors and granite countertops as well.

Zinc, aluminum, packaging, fabrics. These additional materials may also have reuse and recycling options. Of course, there are also substances such as asbestos, latex paint, chemical solvents, adhesives, and lead-based paint that need to be treated carefully to reduce their impact on the environment. With growing concerns about transforming the built environment to be more sustainable, thinking about the entire life cycle of a material becomes vital. In addition to reducing the chances of dumping in clandestine locations and helping to relieve pressure on landfills, recycling can lead to lower costs for both the environment and the consumer. In addition, it reduces the demand for new natural resources, reduces production and transportation costs and eliminating the need to send waste to landfills.

The Dotted Line: How Will Clients Approach Contracts Post-Pandemic?

While contractors and their legal advisers try to work out how the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated mandatory project shutdowns will affect future jobsite operations and profitability, it’s worth looking ahead to what kind of contract terms construction companies could face in the future.

It is every party’s responsibility to protect their own positions, so how might owners change their preferred contract delivery methods or, at the very least, the terms to help them decrease risk and maximize flexibility?

According to attorney Richard Reizen, partner and chair of the construction practice at Gould & Ratner LLP in Chicago, owners will have post-pandemic concerns, which include:

  • The possibility that their projects might stop and start because of government shutdown orders, jobsite worker illnesses, their finances or those of contractors and workforce and supply chain interruptions.
  • Decreased demand for the space or scope of the project they originally intended.
  • Up-to-date medical guidance that may suggest design changes to make the final project more resilient.
  • Major disruptions in the insurance and bonding markets, limiting coverage for future pandemics.

“While there are numerous issues with each one of those factors,” Reizen said, “the bottom line is that the owner will want the flexibility to suspend, cancel or change the project.”

Flexible approaches for owners

The most flexible contract type and pricing model, Reizen said, is cost-plus. Under a cost-plus contract, the owner reimburses the contractor for all agreed-upon construction costs and then adds in a fee, which is typically either a percentage of the costs or a fixed amount. The fixed-fee model and a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) can help alleviate owner concerns that the contractor will drive up costs and otherwise provide some financial certainty that the project will stay in a specific price range.

The model also insulates the contractor somewhat from cost increases as long as the total contract amount does not exceed the GMP.

This method is flexible, Reizen said, because the design, material selection and scope of work can be modified throughout the project.

“The project can begin with incomplete designs, and the design and value engineering can be done ‘as you go,’” he said. The owner is also able to switch up materials if pricing becomes an issue or if there are disruptions to the supply chain.

Another flexible model that owners might want to consider is integrated project delivery (IPD), said attorney Glenn Azzinari, a partner at the law firm of A.Y. Strauss in New York.

IPD is an approach that sees the owner, designer and contractor — and sometimes major subcontractors — working together as a team and signing a single contract. This early collaboration, if done right, can avoid delays, change orders and budget overruns by working out design conflicts and other potential problems before construction begins.

There is also an incentive for the team to resolve issues before they become obstacles when profit is set aside in a “bucket,” to be divided according to a predetermined percentage when the project is complete. “The contractor may have the biggest portion of the bucket,” he said, “while a subcontractor may only have a 5% portion. But that bucket only gets released at the end when the project comes in on budget and on schedule.”

So, if a major disruption should occur, like a second wave of COVID-19 or some other event, Azzinari said, in theory, all parties to the IPD would be incentivized to come to an agreement on how to move forward rather than retreat to their respective corners and hammer out force majeure and other contract provisions in court. With IPD, instead of calls to lawyers, partners convene to figure out together how they will handle the problem, even if it is the novel coronavirus.

“Everyone is going to absorb some of the risks,” Azzinari said, “even if it’s not within their narrow scope [of work or responsibility,] because, at the end of the day, when the project as a whole is delivered on schedule or close to budget, then everyone shares in the reward based on their percentage.”

Making other forms of agreement more flexible

Although these approaches might allow owners the most flexibility, other forms of construction contracts could be amended to include provisions that will also allow the owner more options, Reizen said.

In future construction agreements, he said, contractors could see:

  • What costs they may be entitled to when work is suspended or there is a temporary shutdown of the project, as well as well-defined demobilization and remobilization cost allowances.
  • Termination provisions that provide the owner with the ability to terminate without cause and without penalty or anticipated profit.
  • Change order provisions that clearly set forth the procedures for deductive or adductive changes, including fixed general conditions and fees for any such change.
  • Robust safety and security plans that can adapt to working during a pandemic or other disruptive occurrence.

Some owners, said attorney Felix Rodriguez, a partner in the construction law group at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP in Miami, might break contracts into phases for more flexibility. That approach, however, typically would make sense only if there were the obvious stop and start points that come with multistructure projects. For example, he said, breaking a project into phases could be feasible with a condominium complex that has two towers and a parking garage but not a single tower project.

In reality, though, most construction agreements already give the owner the right to suspend work and even cancel the project for convenience, Rodriguez said. New provisions that construction companies might see in contracts, however, are those that allow for project slowdowns instead of shutdowns in order to avoid the expense and hassle of having to suspend project permits.

And the benefits of IPD can also be incorporated into standard forms of construction agreements, Azzinari said.

“You don’t have to be all in,” he said. “You can try and draft in some provisions that deal with unanticipated major disruptions to the project schedule and create, if you will, an ‘IPD Lite’ [relationship], where you have at least some of those approaches folded into an existing contract structure.”

It’s important to remember, Azzinari said, that IPD isn’t right for every project and that “IPD Lite” provisions must be folded into all key contracts, including owner-architect, owner-contractor/construction manager and major subcontractors.

“The key is to have a hands-on owner, a committed team willing to try something different, and to some degree, trust among the players,” he said.

The owner could require:

  • Early project planning meetings attended by all key parties — e.g. owner, designers, contractors — as well as regular meetings during the course of the project.
  • That collaborative approaches be the first step in tackling a disruptor like COVID-19.
  • A common dispute resolution approach with a mandatory consultation among the parties’ senior executives.
  • Restrictions, if not exclusions, on change orders unless a major, unanticipated issue, as agreed by all, is encountered.
  • A “bonus pool” of money that is released only if the project is completed on time, early and/or on budget.
  • Fairly robust audit rights during and after the project.

What exactly owners will include in their future contracts, IPD or otherwise, is anyone’s guess, Azzinari said, but there will be changes.

“In the past,” he said, “sometimes people wouldn’t negotiate force majeure. I’m going to guarantee you on a big project, the force majeure clause and who bears the risk …  that negotiation will be much more intense because [owners] have been burned.”

Coronavirus Places Premium on Healthy Buildings

In Demand for Healthy Buildings Could Drive ESG Investment in Commercial Real Estate, DBRS Morningstar notes that healthy building strategies that incorporate operational and creative design elements can curb the spread of contagions and promote a healthier work environment in general. Of high importance is ventilation system design. The report points to research suggesting that elevating the intake of external air or installing high-grade filtration systems would decrease contaminant recirculation. The trend going forward will see office and other buildings take on elements more commonly seen in health-care design, including higher-efficiency air filtration systems; copper plumbing as opposed to the plastic variety; antimicrobial fabrics; more spacious bathrooms; and ultraviolet light for the overnight disinfection of surfaces.

While it took years for the commercial real estate industry to fully embrace green buildings, which focus more on environmental efficiencies, DBRS Morningstar expects that it will take far less time for the industry to adopt the concept of healthy buildings.

“We believe there will be less of a lag because the need for a healthy work environment is a very personal and critical issue that affects every office space user,” Kevin Augustyn, vice president of DBRS Morningstar’s North American CMBS team, told Commercial Property Executive“Also, because healthy building design and operating procedures are so personal and concrete, they can also accelerate overall interest in broader ESG factors.”


Per the DBRS Morningstar report, the pandemic is pushing forward a transformation of the workplace that was already in the works: The modification of the open office concept. “While the trend even before the COVID-19 crisis has been away from open floorplans, this transition will take time,” said Augustyn. “Within a given company’s current space it may not be physically possible to build out individual offices for every employee. In the interim at least the solution may require some percentage of employees working from home on a rotating basis and more hoteling and shared desks for those that are in the office on a particular day. Whether it is in the form of individual offices or more spread out workstations, we believe office space will become less dense.”

Additionally, the concept of the purpose of the workplace is in flux. The trend is moving away from the office as a place to do individual work to the office as a place for people to converge for collaboration. “Going forward, the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that the individual work can be effectively done at home and the primary reason to go to the office will be for meetings and collaboration,” Augustyn added.


DBRS Morningstar asserts in the report that integrating relevant design and operational procedures may enhance property demand and value. While there are not yet enough market comparables for healthy buildings to verify their role in lowering vacancy rates or increasing rents, there is data that suggests developers and owners can reap rewards from incorporating strategies that promote health and wellness through design. These strategies, according to DBRS Morningstar, can help attract and retain talent in the post-pandemic workplace.

How Community Participation Can Assist in Architectural and Urban Post-Disaster Reconstruction

The concepts of autonomy, collaboration, and participation have gained relevance in architecture and urbanism through collaborative actions involving the community, architects, urban planners, and designers. As the number of climate disasters has significantly increased – doubling in the last 40 years according to a report released in 2016 by CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters) – in addition to conflicts and other tragedies, the demand for the rebuilding of houses and infrastructure in affected areas has grown simultaneously. This has called for a major collaborative effort in architectural and urban reconstruction.

Following a disaster, entire cities often need to be rebuilt. That is, in addition to housing construction, it is necessary to redesign infrastructure, facilities, and urban flows and dynamics to ensure that the new structures are secure in the event of a repeated disaster. Apart from the technical knowledge of architects, urban planners, and other professionals, as well as the financial support of the institutions, it is essential to establish a dialogue with the population and ensure its participation in the process to find suitable solutions.

According to the Guidelines for Community Participation in Disaster Recovery, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), community participation should be encouraged in post-disaster recovery projects so that it can contribute to negotiations, dialogues, the exchange of knowledge, and the identification of the real needs and priorities of affected communities.

English architect John F. C. Turner, who approached the issue between 1957 and 1965 in Peru, was one of the architects that contributed to the spreading of the debate regarding participation in architecture and urbanism. Invited by Eduardo Neira, Turner joined the Oficina de Asistencia Técnica a las Urbanizaciones Populares de Arequipa (OATA) created by Neira in 1955 to rebuild the city of Arequipa after an earthquake struck it.

Time is a major issue in the emergency rebuilding of neighborhoods, towns, and cities. Hence, the elaboration of a project may seem lengthy for homeless families and at the same time too fast for architects, planners, and builders. According to Turner, self-construction may prove a viable option as a measure of minimizing homelessness periods.

In an interview with the World Bank in 2000, Turner said that one of the saddest things he had ever seen was temporary housing camps full of people willing and desperate to rebuild their homes but hindered by authorities that were determined to impose their plans, which take years of preparation and implementation, with often unsuitable funds and management.

Just like direct participatory construction, projects developed through dialogue can lead to the implementation of the principle of incremental building and to the adaptability of the spaces to meet family demands which, similarly to behavioral patterns, are always changing. These concepts have been a part of the work of 2016 Pritzker winner Alejandro Aravena and his office ELEMENTAL, committed to fostering community autonomy and participation in the design process.

After an earthquake and tsunami hit the Chilean city of Constitución, ELEMENTAL was called in to design a recovery plan. Along with the office, the project joined the efforts of the government, the company Arauco and the local community. Proposals were presented in a sort of “open house” in the city’s main square and discussed throughout gatherings and meetings until reaching a vote of possible solutions to prevent damage to homes in the event of a tsunami and/or earthquake recurrence.

Reclaiming Heritage is a group of architects and students who have also recognized the role of the community as agents involved in its recovery, as seen in past works in Haiti and Chile, combining participation with the reuse of materials and rebuilding from the ruins. The Guidelines for Community Participation in Disaster Recovery cites yet other ways in which the population can participate in the reconstruction process as a result of case studies, such as public hearings in the British Virgin Islands in 2017; online hearings in New Zealand in 2010/2011; and dialogue between civil society and administration groups in Tamil Nadu (India) in 2004, just to name a few examples.

As witnessed in post-disaster reconstruction experiences in different parts of the world, participation can increase mutual trust and transparency among those involved in the recovery process and give greater decision-making power to communities. Also, it can foster constructions based on local skills and resources, carried out according to the needs and priorities of the population, which can lead to more effective results in post-disaster recovery.