Hurricane-resistant construction may be undervalued by billions of dollars annually

September 04, 2022

A 2019 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that hurricane-related wind damage causes $14 billion in losses to the residential sector annually. Manav notes that this assumption disregards the complexity of neighborhood texture. To address this, Manav and her team sought to create a hurricane loss model that accounts for neighborhood texture. Analysis and cost perspectiveThe researchers then estimated the value of stronger construction in a case study of residential buildings in Florida. This involved modeling the impact of several mitigation measures applied to over 9.3 million housing units spread across 6.9 million buildings.

In Florida, June typically marks the beginning of hurricane season. Preparation for a storm may appear as otherworldly as it is routine: businesses and homes board up windows and doors, bottled water is quick to sell out, and public buildings cease operations to serve as emergency shelters.

What happens next may be unpredictable. If things take a turn for the worse, myriad homes may be leveled. A 2019 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that hurricane-related wind damage causes $14 billion in losses to the residential sector annually. 

However, new research led by Ipek Bensu Manav, an MIT graduate student in civil and environmental engineering and research assistant at MIT’s Concrete Sustainability Hub, suggests that the value of mitigating this wind damage through stronger construction methods may be significantly underestimated. 

In fact, the failure of wind loss models to account for neighborhood texture — the density and configuration of surrounding buildings with respect to a building of interest — may result in an over 80 percent undervaluation of these methods in Florida.

Methodology

Hazus, a loss estimation tool developed and currently used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), estimates physical and economic damage to buildings due to wind and windborne debris. However, the tool assumes that all buildings in a neighborhood experience the same wind loading.

Manav notes that this assumption disregards the complexity of neighborhood texture. Buildings of different shapes and sizes can be arranged in innumerable ways. This arrangement can amplify or reduce the wind load on buildings within the neighborhood. 

Wind load amplifications and reductions result from effects referred to as tunneling and shielding. Densely built-up areas with grid-like layouts are particularly susceptible to wind tunneling effects. You might have experienced these effects yourself walking down a windy street, such as Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near the MIT campus, only to turn the corner and feel calmer air.

To address this, Manav and her team sought to create a hurricane loss model that accounts for neighborhood texture. By combining GIS files, census tract data, and models of wind recurrence and structural performance, the researchers constructed a high-resolution estimate of expected wind-related structural losses, as well as the benefits of mitigation to reduce those losses. 

The model builds on prior research led by Jacob Roxon, a recent CSHub postdoc and co-author of this paper, who developed an empirical relationship that estimates building-specific wind gusts with information about building layout in a given neighborhood. 

A challenge the researchers had to overcome was the fact that the building footprints that were available for this estimation have little-to-no information on occupancy and building type.

Manav addressed this by developing a novel statistical model that assigns occupancy and building types to structures based on characteristics of the census tract in which they are located.

Analysis and cost perspective

The researchers then estimated the value of stronger construction in a case study of residential buildings in Florida. This involved modeling the impact of several mitigation measures applied to over 9.3 million housing units spread across 6.9 million buildings.

The source of this news is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Popular in Research

1

Sep 16, 2022

'Any other day': Fox's Jesse Watters confronts Lindsey Graham over timing of abortion bill

2

Sep 16, 2022

DART spacecraft prepares to collide with asteroid target later this month

3

Sep 16, 2022

A crash course in the life of a biomedical engineer

4

Sep 16, 2022

How to stop cities and companies causing planetary harm

5

Sep 16, 2022

Youth mental health improves despite COVID pressure

Trump Under Intense Legal Scrutiny After FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago

13 hours ago

Putin's 'incredibly dangerous' nuclear threats raise the risk of an unprecedented disaster

1 day ago

Trump to be deposed Wednesday morning in New York attorney general's probe of his business

13 hours ago

Trump Lawyers Rotate Among Inner Circle as Legal Woes Mount

13 hours ago

New Study Shows Racial, Gender Discrepancies in Special Education Services

5 days ago

Christopher Capozzola named senior associate dean for open learning

5 days ago