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  1. #1
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    NYC BUILDING CODES: Post Sandy Upgrades

    Mayor Bloomberg is proposing revisions to the building codes in NYC, based on what happened with Huricane Sandy.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/ny...r.html?hp&_r=0

    Some of the upgrades would be retroactive - existing buildings would need to renovate and add those features. This is unusual and has financial and legal implications.

    Building codes in NYC already require that buildings can withstand high winds (around 110 mph), but powerful Hurricanes can generate higher winds. Powerful Huricanes are rare so far north, but not unheard of.

    The article talks about buildings, but not really zoning. It doesn't address the wisdom of building so many buildings so close to the ocean.

    Do you think we should build all buildings for the worst case? Is it fair to ask owners to do expensive retrofits? Or should we only do this for Hospitals and schools? Do you think we need to restrict new construction on our shorelines?

    Or can you find some way to blame all of this on Obama or G.W. Bush.
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  2. #2
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    We're screwed. Big storm just freaked everybody out here in NVA-DC, with several "tornados" reported, lots of downed trees, power lines, etc. Nobody killed. I was sitting here on the third floor of a brick walled WWII apt. bldg. The aged trees shook like crazy for about 15 minutes, but nothing came down and the power stayed on.

    Violent weather I guess is going to be normal from now on. But I remember some horrendous hurricanes when living on LI. Hazel, I believe did some serious damage to the south shore beach communities, same as the last one. NYC has been hit by hurricanes as bad or worse for over a hundred years. Nothing new. 110 mph wind resistant buldings should be okay. By the time hurricanes reach NY, they've always lost power considerably.

    Flooding is another problem, though. But NYC dealt with that too, didn't they? I mean, pumping out the subways and tunnels was pretty quick, wasn't it, not to mention restoring all that underground power grid? Around DC Metro the power lines are almost always strung above ground and get pulled down by all the old trees. In the newer burbs, such as Gaithersburg, Md, the lines are buried and nobody loses electricity in a storm.

    Sure wouldn't want to be 40 stories up in one of those high rises in Manhattan when the winds pick up, though. I've been in them shaking and teetering in wind, enough to make you sea sick! And if the city floods and power goes off, its a long way down to the street.

    I think NY should build retractible sea walls. Or like Venice, levees with gates that can be closed at high tide. I hear in another 100 years Venice will be below sea level.

  3. #3
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    Yep, it's goin' down. MOSE should keep the worst storm surges out for a few decades, but won't help with subsidence. That issue apparently stems from putting millions of tons of stone buildings on wooden pilings in the middle of a coastal swamp. Who knew?

  4. #4
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    I find it odd that in Earthquake retrofitting and new construction buildings are designed to withstand the high levels of these phenom ( 6-7 on the richter scale) but in Hurricane / Tornado areas buildings seem to be designed for the low end of the scale
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by atpjunkie View Post
    I find it odd that in Earthquake retrofitting and new construction buildings are designed to withstand the high levels of these phenom ( 6-7 on the richter scale) but in Hurricane / Tornado areas buildings seem to be designed for the low end of the scale
    I think it is odd that there aren't more requirements for tornadoes. At require tornadoes shelters, or stricter standards for hospitals.

    Though with Huricanes you can evacuate people, where earthquakes strike with no warning. With hurricanes I guess we've made a choice - evacuate rather than build super strong / expensive buildings.

    Building Codes deal with preservation of life, not the building. A building may be so badly damaged as to not be usable after an earthquake, hurricane, etc... but it doesn't collapse and kill anyone.

    So I think we wind up dealing with two issues - not having people die in the initial disaster and then what to do after, when a city is flooded, infrastructure wrecked and people homeless.

    Seems like Katrina woke us up to the fact that its not easy to clean up an entire city of wrecked buildings and suddenly homeless people.
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  6. #6
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    As a civil engineer and construction professional I offer the following:

    1.) As Bluenote pointed out, the building codes are about protecting people, not the structure.

    2.) Earthquakes provide little, if any warning. Hurricanes provide ample warning for people to evacuate. Those that choose to stay? Well...

    3.) Tornados generally provide some warning, but are extraordinarily violent. It is not economically viable to make buildings, even schools and hospitals, tornado resistant. We have all seen how straw can penetrate a telephone pole. Now try and make a building resist the impact of a telephone pole at 300 mph. While some wind uplift is designed into roofs, it is not reasonable to increase the resistance to the point where it could resist a significant tornado.

    At some point we must balance the economics with the risk.

    Bloomberg certainly will be priased by those that control the construction industry in NYC.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue CheeseHead View Post
    As a civil engineer and construction professional I offer the following:

    1.) As Bluenote pointed out, the building codes are about protecting people, not the structure.

    2.) Earthquakes provide little, if any warning. Hurricanes provide ample warning for people to evacuate. Those that choose to stay? Well...

    3.) Tornados generally provide some warning, but are extraordinarily violent. It is not economically viable to make buildings, even schools and hospitals, tornado resistant. We have all seen how straw can penetrate a telephone pole. Now try and make a building resist the impact of a telephone pole at 300 mph. While some wind uplift is designed into roofs, it is not reasonable to increase the resistance to the point where it could resist a significant tornado.

    At some point we must balance the economics with the risk.

    Bloomberg certainly will be priased by those that control the construction industry in NYC.
    Fair.

    I guess I was thinking of requirements for tornado shelters. Or that high occupancy uses - schools and Hospitals have some type of 'place of refuge.' You couldn't economically design it for all tornadoes. But 120 mph is not impossible and covers the wind speed of many tornadoes.
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