When is Density Beneficial in Disasters?

Comparing cities versus suburbs in disaster resiliency and recovery.

In an article titled "How Density Makes Us Safer During Natural Disasters" from September 2013, author Vishaan Chakrabarti discusses how density done right can result in cities that fare better than suburban communities during natural disasters such as the East Coast’s Hurricane Sandy. While Chakrabarti concedes the opposite can also be true for inadequately built environments, Dave Hampton (an architect and consultant for the integration of natural and built environments) takes a closer look at this latter concept and the role of regional environments and development.

Offers Hampton, “Understanding how regions currently function and the degrees to which they are robust will lead to better ways of predicting how they will recover after a disaster, leading to greater success in making more distinct areas – cities, towns – ready to weather the next storm.”

Density did not help urban Port Au Prince, Haiti in 2010 when the island was hit by a massive 7.0 earthquake, according to Hampton. Economics, income, and resources play a key role in how areas recover from disaster, he adds.

“An economic powerhouse metropolis in a developed nation, New York has everything going for it. Density, admittedly, concentrates people, power, and capacity. Years of focused prioritization have produced a highly sophisticated set of checks and balances in the form of strong building and health codes, zoning laws, inspections enforcement, and robust support networks of emergency response and public health.”

Full Story: Towards Resilient Regions

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