Affordability, sustainability, versatility are the guiding words that are shaping up the real estate sector; with material scientists, architects, physicists and governments joining hands to revolutionise the industry. This year alone, we have seen innumerable ways in which scientists have experimented with versatile materials to minimise the impact of climate change - right from minimizing the effects of natural disasters, to preserving human life and property.
For example, using wood, floating building structures in places where seismic activity is high. Typical light-frame buildings resist seismic forces through a system of horizontal diaphragms and vertical shear walls. One of the techniques used ties the foundation to the building so that the whole unit moves as one; another - known as base isolation -- involves building a structure above its foundation on a system of bearings, springs or padded cylinders or alternately placing heavy counterweights on the top of the building. Another element that is being integrated in the new age buildings are steel structures that help anchor the building to the earth and shapes such as angles, plates & beams, offer the highest amount of ductility. This allows the buildings to bend considerably without breaking.
In cases of flooding or high-speed winds, apart from using concrete, ceramic, polyester epoxy paint, marine grade plywood; clay structures are also proving to be an effective option. Clay absorbs moisture and reduces structural damage; research has shown that clay structures retain their usability even after devastating events. Historically, the solution for those who cannot move to higher ground was to build walls, raise homes up on stilts, or rebuild. This may not be possible in all situations. If that be the case, other alternatives include restoring natural barriers like sand dunes and mangroves, creating flood barriers, adopting resilient landscaping designs, the latter gaining quite a bit of popularity in recent time.
Engineers world over, are also experimenting with reinforced concrete to create safe rooms that are fire resistant, earthquake proof and can withstand extreme wind speeds like in the case of cyclones and hurricanes. Concrete aids in limiting the progress of fire and also offers resistance to flying debris.
These are just some examples of how to better prepare for the changes caused by the rapidly changing climatic condition. But are new age materials the ultimate answer?
The answer is an emphatic “No”….
While new age materials can help mitigate the immediate problems caused by natural disaster, they in no way can prevent the disaster itself. Government regulation for old and unsafe buildings, land reforms, push for recycled materials in construction, international understanding of ecology and sustainability are some factors to consider. Ensuring active afforestation is another good starting point; thick forestry creates a barrier between the elements and man along with which, they can reverse the effects of climate change. Various elements, stakeholders need to come together to stem the downward spiral of drastic climatic change. Case in point, Japan where apart from using innovative lightweight material for building, better disaster management systems, necessary regulations and norms have been introduced to limit the damage to life and property.
It’s time that we, collectively as awhole, act in the name of self-preservation!