Ever since the wake-up call of Hurricane Sandy, it seems that everywhere you turn, there is talk about resiliency—how to make communities and infrastructure more resilient to hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

A number of smart people from a wide range of federal and local agencies, corporations, electrical and water utilities, as well as research entities and even design firms are putting their minds together to finding solutions to help make communities more resilient to the effects of climate change and other natural disasters.

Just last week, on July 23, the National Research Council issued a report calling for a more unified approach among the various stakeholders to help coastal communities be more proactive, rather than reactive, to natural disasters along the nation’s coasts. See ENR’s article on the reporthere.

Earlier this spring, leaders of America’s design and construction industry—along with building owners and operators—actually came together and agreed on something, a rather significant accomplishment in and of itself since many times the various groups can be at odds with each other. 

They agreed to promote resiliency in contemporary planning, building materials, design, construction and operational techniques as a way to make the nation’s infrastructure more safe and secure. 

CEOs of almost two-dozen leading design and construction industry associations, which have  more than 700,000 total members and generate almost $1 trillion in GDP, signed a joint statement that acknowledges that natural and man-made hazards pose an increasing threat to public safety and the nation’s economic health, and that the building community can play a big role in helping communities become more resilient to these threats. 

Some of the groups are the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Society of Landscape Architects,  American Institute of Architects,  U.S. Green Building Council and International Code Council. AIA CEO Robert Ivy says that the joint statement is “just a first step.”  He says that it is important that the groups make sure “that resiliency is not viewed as just a fad but remains front and center in our efforts moving forward.” 

A group of the leaders signed the joint statement at the National Building Museum, which has a major exhibit of its own on building more resilient communities. 

The exhibition highlights how disasters associated with climate change and other natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, can wreak havoc on buildings, infrastructure and people’s homes. 

The exhibit’s main premise is that everyone, from individual homeowners to building designers to community planners, can be more proactive—rather than reactive—in preparing for natural disasters associated with hurricanes, sea-level rise and wildfires. 

For example, designers might be interested in a large replica of Florida International University’s “Wall of Wind," which allows visitors to test various roof shapes against hurricane-force winds to see which shape performs best. Erik Salna, associate director of FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center, says that the wind testing facility at FIU is useful in evaluating the resiliency of all types of buildings, not just homes. 

In this video, Salna talks about why the wind testing facility was built and what it does.  

Another portion of the exhibit includes a simulation of a button-activated set of moving stairs that show how the expansion joints within the seating bowl at the University of California, Berkeley, Memorial Stadium would actually perform if an earthquake were to occur.

Another component is a partially deconstructed, FEMA-specified “safe room” that can be built into any building, including an individual home, but also in an office building, to protect its inhabitants from tornado-force winds and flying objects.

The exhibition brings home an important message—not only to designers and builders, but to the public at large—that everyone can do something to prepare for the increasing likelihood that hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, sea level rise, and even earthquakes, will be affecting them or someone they care about sometime during their lifetime.

That alone is reason to keep resiliency front and center, as AIA’s Ivy’s hopes.

The National Building Museum exhibit,  “Designer for Disasters” opened May 11 and will be on display through August 2, 2015.