The New Normal

A recent article in the New York Times, “The Generator is the Machine of the Moment” talks about changes to building projects to make them more resilient to Hurricane Sandy  type storms.  The changes are straight forward changes to the building systems, such as moving mechanical systems out of the basement, flood proofing the basements and lower floors, installing generators and pumping systems.  Other changes are at the level of developments which look at ways of storing storm water on site in the lower floors and open areas to reduce the impact.  This is now the “new normal” because the people using the buildings don’t want to endure the loss of power and disruptions to their lives. They recognize that these types of storms are becoming a fact of life, rather than the “storm of the century”.

Being resilient in terms of buildings and community is recognizing that each community exists in dynamic systems which include water, wind, and movements of earth and sea.  As the article points out, if the full dynamism of these natural systems is felt by the inhabitants, they adapt to it.  It mentions Venice and Amsterdam in terms of dealing with storms, but California can be included for dealing with earthquakes.  California is fortunate in that it has numerous earthquakes   When a medium size earthquake happens, dubbed “designer quakes”, they rattle people but don’t do significant damage. This becomes a reminder to step back to check plans and assumptions.  They look at their buildings and critical infrastructure such as transportation, energy, water etc and figure out what needs to be strengthened. While they do it, they take into account the really big earthquake into as the basis for their decisions.

Of course, places in California have problems with floods, drought, and winds as well. Being resilient is addressing all of these risks as well. Some of the steps for each of these risks overlap, some don’t.  The challenge for each community is to look at balancing these risks and their responses.  The need for the “new normal” is that citizens and communities recognize and demand that these risks be addressed in each building, development and community.  It is saying that the costs for doing this is borne before the disaster because it costs less money than fixing afterwards.  It also saves much heartache and trauma for the people living through it.

The “new normal” from Hurricane Sandy also recognizes that global warming is driving these changes to storms, flooding, and sea level rise. This is where sustainability and resilience cross paths.  The focus of sustainability is now global warming and the measure is reducing carbon footprints.  Solutions to being resilient also need to be cross checked with efforts for sustainability.  Much of it makes perfect sense.  Preventing damage or destruction to existing buildings, whether from water, wind, or quake, reduces the need for repair and replacement which have high carbon foot prints for materials and construction.  Combining seismic upgrades with adding insulation fit well together since they both take place at the exterior walls of buildings. Adding renewable energy sources to reduce energy consumption, means that buildings can use this energy when the energy grid is damaged. The list goes on.

The new normal is being both resilient and sustainable. In Oregon, we are more aware of sustainability.  However, we haven’t started to address the coming effects of floods, winds, and droughts that will be increased due to global warming.  Similarly, we have become aware of the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, but are not aware of how vulnerable we are with respect to the damage and loss of life we will be subject too.  We tend to respond to things we have had direct experience with.  Buildings are required to be seismically strengthened after earthquakes have occurred.  With both global warming and a Cascadia earthquake, we need to prepare for events that science tell us are coming.  The examples are out there, Hurricane Sandy and the Tohoku earthquake to name a couple.  The new normal needs to include learning from others.


2 responses to “The New Normal”

  1. I know, it does rather tend to do one’s head in, if one spedns any time thinking about it. We’ve just enjoyed’ another little flurry of more major activity recently. And a large part of Merivale Mall was closed down yesterday, following on from further structural checks as a consequence of the December 23 earthquakes. I also understand from various sources that there may be big question marks over the newer part of Riccarton Mall and also The Palms ie good places to stay away from so it’s still a very long way from good in any sense of that word.

  2. Explain Plate Tectonics:Plate tectonics were a threoy created in the 1960s, to explain the outer layers of Earth and move and form. Since the development of plate tectonics scientist have had to reexamine every aspect of Geology. Plate tectonics help explain all the events that have to do with rock on Earth. There are three different kinds of plate boundaries such as, divergent, transform, and convergent boundaries. The plates are all marked with boundary lines, and each plate has a name. As the boundaries move diverging (pulling apart) or converging (coming together) along their borders, tremendous energies are unleashed resulting in tremors that transform earth’s surface. All the plates appear to be moving at different speeds and independently away from each other; the whole puzzle of plates is interconnected. Not one single plate can move without affecting another plate. The movement of one plate can affect another plate from thousands of miles away. At divergent boundaries new crust is created as one or more plates pull away from each other. Oceans are born and grow wider when plates diverge/ or pull apart. When a diverging boundary occurs on land a separation will arise over time the mass of land will break apart into distinct land masses and the surrounding water will fill the space in between them. In convergent boundaries crust is destroyed and then recycled back into the interior of the Earth as one plate divers under another. Mountains and volcanoes are most likely found where plates converge. There are three kinds of convergent boundaries, Oceanic- Oceanic Convergence, Oceanic- Continental Convergence, and Continental- Continental Convergence. The last kind of plate boundary is a transform boundary. Transform-fault boundaries are when two plates are sliding horizontally past each other. These are also known as transforming boundaries but mostly are called faults. Most transform faults are found on the ocean floor. They commonly spreading ridges producing zig zig plate margins, and are generally defined by shallow earthquakes. A few however occur on land. How plates and volcanoes are related: Plates and volcanoes are related because; the oceanic plate carries along water as it goes into the mantle. At the very high temperature and pressure of the depths additional water is released from the oceanic plate. This causes the rock of the mantle to melt, forming magma that can produce volcanoes.How plates and earthquakes are related;Plates and earthquakes are related in the way when. Plates hit and rub against each other, they are ruff and hard. Tension is then caused when this happens. Which can result in an earthquake happening.