Disaster mitigation and the role of resilient buildings

By Pauline Pelous
October 11, 2019

Disaster mitigation is becoming an integral part of urban design as high-profile building fires prompt world-wide concern and extreme periods of weather lead to widespread flooding and heatwaves causing misery for millions.

The role that resilient buildings play in mitigating disaster risk is highlighted by #BuildToLast — the theme of United Nations International Day for Disaster Reduction #DRRday — which on October 13 will focus on the importance of taking a risk-informed approach to development, construction and infrastructure.

Sîan Hughes, Knauf Insulation’s Director of External Affairs, says: “Disaster Risk Reduction Day is an important opportunity to reflect on how we must future-proof our built environment. Risk factors such as flooding, extreme heat or building fire safety are key concerns of the built environment and we are working closely with our customers to provide the expertise and solutions they need.”

Building fires

In recent years, several building fire disasters have provoked an international outcry, and policy makers are increasingly putting building fire safety at the top of urban development agendas.

“We can help. We are collecting and maintaining international data on fire regulations, fire safety testing and insurance requirements that we can share with customers to support them in making informed decisions about building fire safety,” Amaya Osácar, Knauf Insulation’s Fire Safety Manager, says.

Knauf Insulation also produces A1 and A2 fire-safe solutions and offers all the technical expertise specifiers may require to ensure their safety performance is maximised and that they are installed in line with best practice.

Storms, flooding and extreme heat

DRR Day also aims to examine how to prepare for future natural disasters. Mami Mitzuori, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, says: “The world must learn how to build to last in an age of weather extremes.”

The five-year average global temperature from 2013-17 was the highest on record and extreme weather is generating more powerful storms, exacerbating flooding and creating higher temperatures and longer droughts, says the 2019 Global Assessment Report of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, with flooding accounting for 43% of all disasters in the 20-year period from 1998.

Urban flood support

“In areas where storm-water flooding is common, Knauf Insulation Green Roof and Landscaping Solutions can relieve pressure from overstretched city drainage systems by absorbing between 27 and 45 litres of rainwater per square metre,” says Jure Šumi, Business Development Director Green Solutions.

“Our Urbanscape green roofs can also help reduce heat-island effect where urban areas are significantly hotter than the surrounding countryside. Additionally, we are helping to make green infrastructure more resilient in areas of extreme heat such as the Middle East. At one giant green park in Dubai where we installed Urbanscape, for example, we reduced irrigation water use by 50%.”

Disaster Day focus

Sîan Hughes adds: “International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is an important reminder of how we must make our built environment more resilient — it is an opportunity we cannot ignore.”

International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction began in 1989 after a call by United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction.