Most building codes in 'the zone' now require new construction to be strengthened to resist hurricane force winds. But that's a one-off approach to sustainability. The potential for the Law of Unintended Consquences to come into play is high in any one-off change. For example, do costs of the new building codes tend to exclude low income people from the best shore properties? Do the new designs require owners to consume more energy intensive building materials? What about the impact on long term energy consumption? Think about it for a while and many more difficult and unanswered questions emerge with landscaping, stormwater management, and daylighting.
Some future drivers are gaining certainty, however. Congress just approved a massive highway spending bill that is sure to upgrade the storm damaged bridges, roads, and ditches for years to come. And there's a surprise answer in the mix. If TreeHugger gave an award for best "out-of-the-box" thinking about housing, sustainabilty, and hurricanes, a research team at the University of Oklahoma would surely be nominated.
The following was excerpted from a recent EarthWatch Radio broadcast transcript:
The High Cost of 'Safe' Hurricanes, by Laura Kalinowski
"Hurricanes are less of a threat to life and limb in the United States thanks to improvements in weather forecasting technology. Today weather experts can make accurate predictions that give people time to prepare for hurricanes or get away from them. But the economic impact of hurricanes keeps going up. A recent report suggests there's a connection
between the reduction in fatalities and the increase in property damage".
"Daniel Sutter and a colleague at the University of Oklahoma study the the relationship between weather and the economy. He says accurate warnings for hurricanes have reduced the number of injuries and fatalities they inflict. Sutter says that has encouraged people to feel it's safe to live along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. He says it stands to reason that if more people move to these areas, they'll put more and more property at risk of weather-related damage..."
So to review what we've learned: improved weather forcasting saves lives but dramatically increases the solid waste generation rate in states with hurricane vulnerable coastal areas.