C+S August 2023 Vol. 9 Issue 8 (web)

Inside Out Building Resilient Infrastructure to Safeguard Against Natural Disasters

By Holly Schaubert

The state of our nation’s infrastructure One-third of the continental United States is considered a “hazard hotspot”, yet nearly 60 percent of structures in the United States are located in these hotspots. Approximately 1.5 million buildings are located in hotspots with two or more hazards, leaving them vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters including floods, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes, according to a study from the American Geophysical Union. Development in these areas continues to grow. In its most recent assessment of the nation’s bridges, the American Society of Civil Engineers found more than 46,000, or 7.5 percent, are structurally deficient. The collapse of the I-95 bridge in Philadelphia in June 2023 disrupted travel for an estimated 160,000 drivers per day, including 14,000 commercial trucks. Structural failures in the nation’s bridges also come with a higher cost: the deadliest bridge collapse in modern US history killed 46 people. The cost to repair or replace outdated bridges in the U.S. is an estimated $125 billion. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law designates $40 billion toward bridge repair and reconstruction – the largest single investment in bridges since the Eisenhower era, yet not nearly enough to cover the needed repairs. Based on data from insurance and property claim services, state agencies, the US. Army Corps of Engineers, and FEMA, damages due to weather and climate disasters in the US exceeded $165 billion in 2022 alone.

As the world faces increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters, ensuring the nation’s infrastructure is built to last has never been more important. Natural disasters often occur concurrently or in rapid succession, making a multi-hazard approach essential. By considering various types of disasters during the design and construction phase, infrastructure can be better prepared to withstand multiple threats, ensuring the safety of communities. Additionally, selecting the right materials throughout the project is pivotal in enabling structures to withstand whatever Mother Nature may bring. Steel Hollow Structural Sections (HSS) emerge as a standout choice for fortifying infrastructure against natural disasters. With their exceptional strength, ability to withstand substantial forces, inherent fire resistance, and corrosion-resistant options, HSS offer reliable protection for structures required to endure and recover from the impacts of natural disasters involving wind, flooding, fire, and seismic activity. Beyond their strength, HSS also contributes to sustainable and resilient practices. Their use supports the circular economy, reduces strain on supply chains and conserves finite resources. This article will delve into the critical role that steel, particularly Hollow Structural Sections, play in fortifying infrastructure from damage due to natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other extreme environmental events. It will also explore the broader significance of steel in sustainable building practices, highlighting the interplay between resilience and sustainability in infrastructure development.




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