Disaster Recovery. We’re on It!

Architects Role in Recovery Efforts & AIA’s Disaster Assistance Program

With stories of Australia engulfed in wildfire and earthquakes destroying Puerto Rico scattered throughout my news feed, global disasters are at the top of my mind. We live in an age of information and technology and have access to current events at our finger tips. With that access comes the ability to affect change and help the situations we’re reading about. There are many avenues to aid in relief efforts. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to invest or how to do your part to help the cause. Fortunately, the AIA has a program that focuses on disaster assistance.

The AIA’s Disaster Assistance Program is a nationwide network of volunteers who help communities before and after a disaster. There is a page within AIA.org that provides updates from the program (link posted below). At this time, the Disaster Assistance Program is assisting with recovery from earthquakes in Puerto Rico and wildfires in Australia, while also tackling the topic of climate change. In Puerto Rico, volunteers are needed to assess the estimated 8-10,000 impacted buildings in the quake area. Of course, monetary support is also needed; an option that enables those who may not be located near the island to help. The Disaster Assistance Program lists a couple trusted organizations to contribute to if you are interested. In Australia, recovery efforts and preparation for surviving the fire risk require the local architect’s pro bono services. There is also a link to the Australian Institute of Architects that has more detailed information on recovery efforts. Climate change is an ongoing concern. The AIA’s goal is for architects to act responsibly and to recognize the role buildings have in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The AIA provides links to resources regarding the matter and a related initiative.

How architects can respond to disasters

Architects have a specific knowledge that can help their communities before and after a disaster. Before disaster strikes, architects can use strategies to avoid or minimize damage. Afterwards, architects can assess damage and can contribute services for planning new buildings. Since 1972, the Disaster Assistance Program has prepared members and chapters to assist communities in leadership and volunteer roles. The program provides trained members that can volunteer to perform building safety assessments at the request of a state or local jurisdiction.

Why architects should get involved in disaster response

In the wake of disasters, officials have their hands full with response efforts. Our communities rely on the efforts of volunteers to augment the busy officials to expedite recovery during and after crisis. AIA Safety Assessment Program (SAP) training equips professionals with the specialized knowledge and technical skills to know what to look for to determine when a building is safe and habitable. The AIA’s Code of Ethics outlines architects’ commitment to the public to provide emergency services in times of disaster. Even without the ethical calling, when you consider the impact a disaster places on the health, safety and welfare of the public, it’s pretty obvious there is a responsibility of architects to aid in relief efforts.

An opportunity for creative problem-solving

Designers have the opportunity to design buildings for resiliency when disaster strikes. Strategic planning for how systems react to extraordinary circumstances can, most importantly, save lives as well as time and money. Thinking through and anticipating disasters should be standard practice and part of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. There is a network specifically focused on topics of hazard mitigation, disaster assistance, climate adaptation, and resilience called the AIA Resilience Network. Members of the network can exchange experience and expertise as well as participate in conferences and panel presentations that highlight the systems-based approach to addressing shocks and stresses on a building impacted by disaster.

In summary

Disasters are unavoidable, but with planning, we can avoid traumatic impact. Using their knowledge and skills, architects can help rebuild and recover post-crisis. Continuing to learn about innovative systems and strategies, architects can prepare for the unexpected and help in times of need.

For more information and to find out updates on disasters and how you can help, go to:


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