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Experts weigh in on more resilient, sustainable infrastructure to withstand Texas' severe weather

A panel of architects and engineers weigh in on strategies to build stronger more resilient structures as part of the WhatMatters Symposium's series titled "Building for the Future in the Face of Severe Weather."
Pablo Arauz Peña
/
KERA News
A panel of architects and engineers weigh in on strategies to build stronger more resilient structures as part of the WhatMatters Symposium's series titled "Building for the Future in the Face of Severe Weather."

North Texans are no strangers to severe weather — tornadoes, flooding and hail storms are all too familiar events in the region.

So as climate change brings more severe weather to North Texas, architects and engineers are exploring new ways to design and build stronger and more sustainable infrastructure.

On Tuesday, a panel of industry experts met at Texas CounterFitters in Richardson to discuss just that. It was the second of a three-part series called "StoneMatters: Building for the Future in the Face of Severe Weather" hosted by the WhatMatters Symposium.

The panel addressed the necessity of adapting building strategies to severe weather events.

“There [aren't] natural disasters, there are only natural hazards," said Petros Sideris, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Texas A&M. "They become disasters if the infrastructure cannot take the load."

He said preparing to build for the next big weather event is key.

"It's raining, potentially, you may have a levee breaking, right? If that happens, then you have a disaster," Sideris said. "If you designed for that, you can kind of make sure that it doesn't happen for, you know, regular normal conditions."

Sideris said a long-term approach takes into account new technologies like 3D printing and more resilient materials like hempcrete — concrete made of hemp — that has a lower carbon impact than traditional concrete.

Adapting to severe weather is an ongoing challenge for architects and engineers as climate change continues to impact the state and the globe.

Sustainability was also a topic of discussion at the panel.

"We need to think about designing our homes with a lot of passive technologies like operable windows if it's extremely hot," said Zaida Basora, an architect and sustainability advocate with AIA Dallas.

Basora has previously worked with the City of Dallas on the implementation of the city's green building program, which was recognized with several awards. She said new technologies like AI can play a key role in building more sustainable structures in the face of severe weather.

“Thinking about how we use electricity in our homes and investing in programmable thermostats, and better lighting, more efficient fixtures all over to use less and waste less is important," Basora said.

Jim Poss, the director of Venture Creation who works with the Colorado State University System, said building for the future with severe weather in mind is a long-term investment, especially when building a home.

"If you just project what insurance is going to cost over the lifetime of that structure and build that in, you're better off making the investments in a better, more robust house in the beginning," Poss said.

The next StoneMatters panel, "To Build for the Future with a Focus on Resilience," is scheduled for Nov. 15.

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at parauzpena@kera.org

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Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Pablo Arauz Peña