Adaptation strategies can reduce the threat of cyclones

Following the recent devastating hurricane season in North America and the Caribbean, two structural engineering professors are proposing adaptation strategies to reduce the threat of hurricanes or cyclones.
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Satellite image of Hurricane Irma with its eye just off the coast of Cuba in September. Image: NOAA/CIRA

Following the recent devastating hurricane season in North America and the Caribbean, two structural engineering professors are proposing adaptation strategies to reduce the threat of hurricanes or cyclones.

Dan Frangopol from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and You Dong from Hong Kong Polytechnic University have written a paper in the ASCE Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities titled "Adaptation Optimisation of Residential Buildings under Hurricane Threat Considering Climate Change in a Lifecycle Context".

Frangopol is a pioneer of life-cycle engineering, which assesses environmental impacts in conjunction with economic impacts of a structure's life-cycle from its production to its use and its end.

He and Dong present a systematic framework for the optimal adaptation of residential buildings at a large scale under various scenarios of impending climate change during a long-term interval.

A genetic algorithm-based optimisation process is adopted to determine the optimal adaptation types associated with buildings within an investigated region. The framework considers the probabilistic occurrence models of hurricanes, structural vulnerability of typical residential buildings, possible climate change scenarios, and optimisation of various climate adaptation strategies in a lifecycle context.

They apply their approach to a real-life case study: a group of single-family residential buildings located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. They found that buildings within 1-10 km of the shore revealed the largest loss compared with the buildings located in other regions. Furthermore, buildings built before 1970 contribute substantially to the total annual loss for the buildings located in this region. The changes in the probability of occurrence and intensity of hurricanes due to climate change also have significant effects on the expected lifecycle loss of the buildings within the investigated region.

Within the context of climate change engineering, they found lifecycle loss, cost-benefit analysis, and optimisation can provide the decision maker important information necessary for assessment and adaptation of structural systems at a large scale. This information can be used in design, maintenance, and management processes of civil infrastructure considering extreme events and climate change.

[Satellite image of Hurricane Irma with its eye just off the coast of Cuba in September. Image: NOAA/CIRA]