Discussion Forum

Another Disaster, Another Contest
Original Comment:
I recently read an article on Building Design & Construction’s website about a contest hosted by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (a.k.a. “HUD”) called “Rebuild by Design.” And while I would encourage our members to enter this contest (link below), I am quite frustrated about the whole process of how our government handles disasters.

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/sandyrebuilding/rebuildbydesign#sthash.rTaeHdzt.dpuf

Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern shore of the U.S. late October of 2012. On December 7, 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the “Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce.” And then he signed a supplemental appropriations bill of $50 billion on January 29th, 2013. Those funds were dissipated among numerous federal agencies, including HUD.

So HUD’s response is to announce a contest in June 2013, with the winning entry anticipated to be selected in early 2014 and implementation of the winning design to begin in March of 2014 – a full 16 months after Sandy hit!

And what is the purpose of the contest? To promote more resilient design and construction practices for areas impacted by Sandy. I can save HUD a lot of time and money by suggesting that plenty of solutions currently exist.

As the national spokesperson for the modular construction industry, it’s disheartening to see tax payer funds squandered in this manner while many modular factories in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast U.S. struggle to keep their plants open and people on the payroll. How many people remain homeless in New York and New Jersey? How many homes could $50 billion have constructed?

A few years ago, FEMA held a similar contest called “What if,” helping to prepare the agency in the event of a natural disaster that hit New York City. The agency selected a modular design for quick deployment after a natural disaster. This was prior to Sandy hitting. To date, the winning design has not been implemented in New York and seemingly, the award winning design has not been shared with other federal agencies.

What is more frustrating is that FEMA had already studied the issue of durability following disasters and issued a report in 1992 called “Building Performance Hurricane Andrew in Florida.” In that report, FEMA determined that:

“Overall, relatively minimal structural damage was noted in modular housing developments. The module-to-module combination of units appears to have provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.”

As compared to how HUD code manufactured homes fared:

“Manufactured homes possessed poor ability to withstand the high wind loads generated by Hurricane Andrew. In several subdivisions, many of these homes suffered total losses.”

http://www.modular.org/marketing/documents/FEMA_HurricaneAndrew_Report.pdf


Despite learning this lesson in 1992, FEMA’s now historic mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort and the ongoing desire to create new committees and host new contests proves that our government cannot learn from its own history and is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

To be fair, the contest is co-funded by other interests, including private funds, and the net results of the contest will help build more resilient communities in the future – until a new task force is formed after the next disaster.
Started on July 11, 2013 by Tom Hardiman
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Additional Comments:
Let's focus on/talk about" what should we do"
Updated on July 11, 2013 by Jacques Deng

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