Mother Nature’s Fury

Three weeks ago, I traveled to Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., for a business trip to Lightfair International 2019. As I drove I-29 South from Iowa into Nebraska, I noticed the west side of the interstate was not planted with corn or soybeans as in years past. Instead, the interstate was bordered by a lake; no hint of a field was apparent as far as the eye could see. If I had been traveling this road for the first time, I probably would have marveled at the beautiful lake along the route.

Unfortunately, this “lake” belongs to my brother- and sister-in-law, Mike and Theresa. Mike told me he had only been able to plant 100 acres by May 19. If he couldn’t plant more of his land by June 2, a percentage of his crop insurance would kick in, providing more relief as the days passed without planting. (Two weeks later, when I traveled back to Omaha for my trip to A’19, I-29 was completely closed because of flooding from the Missouri River. At the time of this writing, the interstate still is closed. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to get into and out of Omaha without the interstate!)

The evening before Lightfair began in Philadelphia, I was waiting for my colleagues in the hotel bar. The bartender and I watched the national news, which was warning about long-track tornadoes expected that night through the southern plains; this was after 40-some tornadoes barreled through eight states over the weekend. The bartender looked at me and said, “I’d never live anywhere where there are tornadoes! How do you prepare for something like that?” Despite living in the Midwest my whole life, I didn’t have an answer for her. I have a basement in my home but—based on the images of total destruction of homes shown on the news—I wouldn’t feel safe in it. The very next week, I saw Philadelphia was included in tornado warnings issued in Pennsylvania. I assume the bartender has begun packing her bags to move. But where? There is no place on Earth from which you can escape Mother Nature’s fury.

And, therefore, in my humble opinion, it is time for our industry to lead the charge to make our buildings and infrastructure strong enough to withstand the many natural hazards our nation faces. This special issue of retrofit highlights a few of the building industry’s organizations that are offering insight and assistance to you, building practitioners, to make existing buildings safer for the people and intellectual property inside. Beginning on page 48, our “Special Report” provides guidance from the American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Resiliency Council, San Francisco; Alliance for National & Community Resilience, Washington; EPDM Roofing Association, Washington; and U.S. Green Building Council, Washington.

In addition, on page 66, Jeff Rios, P.E., LEED AP, partner, and Charlie Marino, CEA, LEED AP O+M, service leader, Energy Services, with AKF Engineering, New York, explain New York City’s innovative 80×50 legislation, a package of bills designed to curb city carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 in the hopes of reducing the number of extreme weather events we encounter.

We all have our opinions about climate change—whether it exists or doesn’t exist, whether we contribute to it or not. Regardless of where you stand, the fact is extreme weather across our nation has been the national news headline for months. Doesn’t it make more sense to retrofit buildings and infrastructure to withstand Mother Nature’s fury instead of dealing with the financial and, more importantly, the emotional toll afterward? This is the time for our industry to truly shine as heroes and protectors against the weather, which is proving to be the most formidable of foes.

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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