Civil engineering and disaster management
Natural disasters – bushfires, floods, cyclones, or earthquakes – with their suddenness and ferocity, can severely disrupt the functioning of a society or community and result in mass environmental, economic, and human losses. These serious impacts could be prevented and alleviated with quality civil engineering planning and construction, as the industry plays a major role in shaping the physical fabric of the functioning of our society. Both preparation and post-disaster recovery must be considered throughout the planning, design, and construction process. This way, infrastructures can withstand disruption, absorb disturbance, and can be repaired more quickly afterwards.
Particularly, civil engineers are responsible for developing technologies which, once implemented, can enhance the strength and durability of infrastructures. This is then followed by the construction of infrastructures that are highly resistant to natural disasters. Some state-of-the-art developments are nanotechnology systems used for real-time condition assessment of structures’ safety and security, and identification of incipient damage in structures suffering from long-term deterioration.
In the case of unavoidable destruction and damage, it is then the industry’s obligation to partake in rescue operation and restoration works after the disaster has passed. This reconstruction involves not only recovery, but also improvement to the disaster-resistance qualities of infrastructures. Depending on the goal, adjustments might include watertight construction and floodwalls against flooding, hurricane straps, or soil reinforcement to prevent damages from landslide/mudslide.
Worldwide, countries prone to natural catastrophes have developed construction techniques tailored to most effectively protect manmade infrastructures and dwellers from danger. Japan’s notorious earthquake history of approximately 1500 earthquakes per year means that the country now has the most resilient buildings—including skyscrapers—in the world. The secret lies in that these buildings “dance along” as the ground beneath them moves. Buildings are designed to absorb as much seismic energy as possible, through a process called seismic isolation, in which the structures are put on a form of shock absorber to resist the motions created by the earthquake. These shock absorber systems can be as simple as 30-50cm-thick rubber blocks, used as the “footpad” for buildings. Motion dampers filled with liquid (such as oils) are installed throughout the height of the skyscrapers. Some elegant protective mesh is sometime added as both part of the intentional architectural design and part of the earthquake-proof system.
In Australia — against fire and ice
Every year, Australia suffers from an enormous number of roughly 50,000 bushfires. One of the worst disasters was the bushfire crisis in Victoria back in 2015, claiming at least 100 lives, hundreds of acres of property, and causing nation-wide distress.
To cope with the danger and potential destruction, a number of additional design, specification and construction parameters are essential to building in a bushfire-prone area. The Australian Standard AS 3959 assign risk categories to bushfire prone areas based on six different bushfire attack levels (BALs), from very low risk to extreme risk (Flame Zone). Each new home has to comply with the construction requirements for its zone’s respective BAL classification, regarding the design, composition, and construction/installation of windows, verandahs, carports, floors, roofs, and external walls.
Less severe, but still dangerous, are hailstorms and thunderstorms. A decade ago, most of Sydney’s roofing materials were evaluated as too flimsy to withstand the onslaught of summer storm season. Damages could cost up to millions of dollars to repair. Since then, standards have only gone up, to protect not only properties but lives. Hail netting structures are installed to cover vehicle parking lots, airport parking shade structures, and machinery storage spaces. New types of storm-resistant roofing tiles have also been developed and put in commercial use.
At the moment, one of the biggest challenges in terms of hail-proofing is that solar panels, which have become prevalent in households across the country, are still prone to severe damage by hailstorms. However, the number of hailstorms with hails large enough to cause significant damage is quite low, and efforts are still going into improving the weather-proofing capabilities of this environmentally-friendly form of energy source.
The Kypreos Group’s mission is to provide the civil engineering industry with quality materials and services which are harmonious with the environment and which stands the test of time – view more of our works here on our website.