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Developers Rethink Buildings Post-Sandy

Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which sent rising water rushing over New York City’s embankments and into the basements of residential buildings, has prompted developers to tweak design plans and add a number of costly improvements aimed at protecting buildings from future natural disasters.

Developers of several residential buildings, especially those in Lower Manhattan, are working with engineers and construction crews to make design changes, such as installing mechanical equipment on the upper floors, as well as adding protective measures, including floodgates and backup generators, the New York Times reports. At least one developer is using poured concrete instead of cinder block for the basement walls, and the building’s mechanical room will be sealed with submarine-syle doors.

Owners of existing buildings are taking on expensive retrofits to shore up their structures, including relocating mechanical equipment from the basement and adding generators. Some property managers are focusing more on preparedness, such as recommendations on when to evacuate buildings, the Times reported.

City and regional planners have been working on their own post-superstorm plans to protect the city from future disasters.

The NYS 2100 commission, one of four panels appointed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo in the aftermath of Sandy, issued a draft report last week proposing a number of changes to protect the area from future superstorms that could impact utilities, railways, wastewater treatment and the state’s shoreline.

The commission proposed adding storm surge barriers to protect New York Harbor and recommended adding “green infrastructure” features, such as dunes, wetlands and oyster beds, to the state’s industrial shoreline to help infiltrate, evaporate, retain or reuse storm water. The report, which forecast more frequent cycles of drought and flooding caused by climate change, also called for protection of petroleum, chemical and hazardous waste tanks located in flood plains.

Sandy’s storm surge caused widespread pollution of the Hudson River, New York Harbor and nearby areas by a variety of toxic chemicals, including petroleum and fluids from cars and boats, along with contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels, as well large single sources, such as a 349,000-gallon diesel fuel spill in New Jersey’s Arthur Kill waterway.

Photo: Flickr/That Hartford Guy

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