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National Building Museum – Designing for Disaster, Expert Spotlight – Kate Orff



Natural disasters can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. In 2012, the financial toll in the United States alone exceeded $100 billion, and the loss of life and emotional toll is immeasurable. No region of the country is immune—112 events in 32 states were declared natural disasters in the U.S. during 2012.

The National Building Museum’s exhibition, Designing for Disaster, examines how we assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs yielding safer, more disaster-resilient communities.
Two primary questions help guide the Museum’s approach:

Where should we build?
How should we build?
Through unique objects, captivating graphics, and multimedia—including video testimonials—the exhibition explores new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, storm surge, flooding, sea level rise, tsunamis, and wildfires.

Designing for Disaster discusses disaster mitigation as an evolving science and highlights the tools and strategies that today’s planners, engineers, designers, emergency managers, scientists, environmentalists, and various business and community leaders are investigating and adopting to build safer, more disaster-resilient communities.
Because of the importance of housing, the exhibition features exemplary disaster-resistant residential design. In addition, the exhibition highlights a variety of other building or facilities: hospitals, schools, airports, public arenas/stadiums, fire/police stations, public transportation networks/systems, commercial buildings, and retail outlets. The selected structures are geographically dispersed throughout the country and have been designed to address at least one hazard in an exemplary way.

By showcasing innovative research, cutting-edge materials and technologies, and new thinking about how to work with natural systems and the environment, the exhibition presents a range of viable responses that are functional, pragmatic, and beautiful.

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