• Mariela Bravo

A “Young Architect’s” Guide to Hurricane Season

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is currently at its peak. Regarding hurricanes, late August and September are the most dangerous time of the year.



What should architects do before the hurricane arrives?


A. CONTEXT: Architects have a social responsibility in aiding in the reconstruction process but also have advocate about building up-to-code and with zoning/flood zone requirements.


1. Verify any areas that could be vulnerable to winds, coastal erosion and/or flooding.

2. Document current conditions before the storm arrives.

3. Look for any additional information that can be used towards future reconstruction and how to prevent these vulnerable conditions from happening.


B. CLIENTS: Your Projects need your attention. Verify current conditions in your Project.


1. If your Project is in its construction phase, please make a brief memo and recommend to the Contractor that he may need to take additional measures in order to secure the construction site. Identify vulnerable portions of your Project, such as roof rain leaders, open excavations, fragile systems, among others.

2. If your Project has been completed and is used by your Client, verify if all systems are ok or if they need to take any additional measures in order to secure the property or guarantee its function after the storm.

3. Have an emergency Point of Contact or strategy. Who should they call in the event of a disaster? What number should they call? Lesson learned from María: Internet based messaging could run once you connect to WiFi. Don’t rely on just phone messaging in order to get the message across.

4. Document current conditions. Take as many pictures as you can. This information will be extremely valuable in the future, not only for documenting damages but also for learning what details need to be reinforced or redesigned. Learning from destruction and how buildings fail in these events helps us become better architects.


C. OFFICE: I cannot stress this point more: TAKE CARE OF YOUR PEOPLE.


1. Check on your colleagues and see if they need any help.

2. Pay your “Young Architects” on time so they can start their own emergency measures at home.

3. Make additional backup copies of your data. Lesson learned from María: Make a physical copy of your data and create a full cloud-based backup of your Office’s data.

4. Secure your space and equipment. Move computers away from windows. Move your architecture books away from windows too.

5. STAY SAFE!


IMPORTANT General recommendations:


1. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Be obsessed with details, dates and names. Best advice I have received ever from one of my mentors, Engineer Luis Carrillo.


2. Never underestimate a storm because of its size. All storms cause damage.




Check out @reconstructionpr in Instagram and Facebook for more information on lessons learned from Hurricane María in Puerto Rico.




Manuel Bermúdez Arquitecto csp is an award-winning architecture and urbanism firm based in San Juan, Puerto Rico with over 30 years experience working with multiple types of projects and sectors. We promote Dialogue between the Urban Context and Natural Environment. Our architecture and cities are resilient to climate change, are sustainable and are evolutive in unison. We encourage the application of these principles towards Puerto Rico's Reconstruction after Hurricane María and Irma.

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