Vervet monkeys will rush up a tree to escape a leopard lurking through the forest floor. Most other smaller primates exhibit similar behaviour, and scamper up a tree, when they are confronted with danger at ground level. Human beings are beginning to exhibit behaviour similar to the small monkeys in a forest, where they rush up to heights to avoid dangers ion the ground.
In Manhattan, builders and town planners have realised that if they stay at ground level, they may get washed out into the sea, the next time a nasty storm hits them. This is what happened when Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 made its angry presence felt in the East coast. So what are they doing now? They are going higher, much like the primates in the forest.
The new prestigious towers called the American Copper Building in Manhattan, does not have the fancy penthouse that is usually owned by the rich and famous. Instead the 48th floor of this building will house survival equipment, the next time the building is deluged by the surging waters of a hurricane.
Five emergency generators take up most of the space. The window is already blocked by a bank of electrical switchgear. For the developers, giving up premium space to machinery is insurance against an ominous future: They want tenants in the towers’ 760 apartments to be able to live in their apartments for at least a week, no matter how high floodwaters may reach nor how long the power is out.“We said: ‘Water is going to come in here. What are we going to do about it?’” explained Simon Koster, a principal in the JDS Development Group, which is building the American Copper Buildings.
Resilient design is a new phrase has now entered the vocabulary of architects and town planners. Resilience against the extreme weather events that are pounding the planet. Along coastlines and lake shores and riverfronts across the country, tenants and homeowners, regulators and planners, private developers and public institutions are embracing the growing evidence of climate change. They are now fortifying buildings and infrastructure against rising sea levels and ever more intense storms.“Rising sea levels and a changing climate present a challenge for our country’s largest city, and also an opportunity to create a more resilient, sustainable and equitable New York City,” said Daniel A. Zarrilli, the city’s chief resilience officer and the senior director for climate policy and programs.
While the debate rages on whether President Trump will respect climate science, accept the dangers of climate change and the climate pacts signed by the US, the builders and town planners have realised the true dangers and are preparing for it. Much of the coastal cities of the world need to do the same to avoid excessive flooding caused by the surging seas and waters brought in by the violent storms.
2016 was declared the hottest year ever recorded. This along with the continuing warming of the planet will result in more extreme climate events. While we find ways to mitigate the effects by moving towards a low carbon economy, we need to also find ways to cope with it.