The Latest Green Building Tech to Prepare You for the Next Natural Disaster

The risks that face your home have increased over the past decade, and natural disasters like storms, floods, blizzards, and wildfires are making it more difficult to think of a house as a safe place. Luckily, green building designers, architects, and technologists are working hard to restore safety and security to your most important investment-your home.

Technologies that increase the resilience of your home can provide more safety in a high-risk environment, and many of these upgrades and designs can even increase the value of your home. Below you can find technologies to help in a disaster and increase your home’s sustainability.

Wildfires

California’s 2018 wildfire season set new records for total destruction and lives lost. This rapid increase in deadly wildfires has ignited a desire for technologies residents can use to protect their property from this year’s all-but-inevitable fires.

Wildfire
California’s 2018 wildfire season set new records for total destruction and lives lost.

Smart Sprinklers

Smartphone-operated irrigation systems are one unusual defense for homes in wildfire country. You can activate these systems remotely, letting you protect your property while getting your family to safety. The leading smart irrigation systems are also extremely water-efficient; a web-connected system will follow local weather conditions to prevent overwatering. This makes them an ideal fit for drought-prone communities.

Firewise Landscaping

The landscaping immediately around your home can be designed intelligently to prevent damage from wildfires. Firewise Landscaping separates your property into zones of irrigation and cleared vegetation with the intent of minimizing the fuel available to a wildfire. Pay special attention to slopes leading up to your home, where wildfires move most intensely.

Wireless Smart Sensors

IoT (Internet of Things) devices are the newest emerging technology for wildfire prevention. IoT sensors may soon be deployed in remote areas to detect temperature changes or brushfire smoke to help reduce response times for firefighters. In the future, the temperature sensors in your smart home could become part of a regional network of fire detection.

Fire-Resistant Construction

If you’re designing or renovating your home from scratch, fire-resistant construction techniques offer even greater protection. These construction techniques incorporate fire-resistant exterior materials like stucco or fiber cement, tightly interlocking roof tiles and overhangs, and heat-resistant tempered glass windows.

Flooding

Flooding is one of the world’s most financially devastating natural disasters, totaling $40 billion in damage annually. Floods cause structural damage, human health issues, and secondary disasters like mudslides. Flood frequency and severity is increasing due to climate change, and sea-level rise compounds the damage from storms in coastal areas. New tech seeks to detect flooding sooner and lower the damage it causes to property.

Global sea level rise: tidal Flooding in Miami. October 17, 2016
Flood frequency and severity is increasing due to climate change, and sea-level rise compounds the damage from storms in coastal areas.

Smart Flood Sensors

Newer home security systems offer protection beyond break-ins by using smart sensors to detect flooding, fire, and temperature changes. Smart sensors provide a home security hub with more data about the conditions in your home, allowing 24/7 monitoring. Flood sensors can help you detect flooding earlier, giving you the opportunity to deploy sandbags or pumps in time to prevent lasting damage.

Outside of home sensors, IoT flood sensors can also warn of approaching disasters through flood maps. With IoT networks like the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s StormSense project, programs combine data from sensors across the area to update a real-time flood map and give residents and emergency crews a 36-hour head start on severe flooding.

Wet Floodproofing

Many green buildings in flood-prone coastal areas are reversing the paradigm of keeping floodwater out by letting water in. Wet floodproofing refers to designs that allow a building to flood with minimal damage to the structure or personal property.

Technologies include flood openings at the base of the structure, water-impervious materials like concrete, tile, and fiberglass-faced drywall, and a design that elevates electrical and mechanical equipment far above flood elevation.

Storm Events

The increased likelihood of powerful storms in many areas of the United States presents new challenges for homeowners. Aside from avoiding destruction during the storm itself, homeowners often have to contend with challenges long after the storm has passed. 2017’s season was one of the most active on record, with three Category 4 hurricanes making landfall.

Hurricane Dennis
2017 hurricane season was one of the most active on record with three Category 4 hurricanes making landfall.

Window Protection

Windows often fail during storm events when high winds create positive or negative pressure inside a building. A hurricane or tornado may also carry windborne debris at speeds great enough to shatter glass. Consider using impact-resistant glass or storm shutters to prevent a window failure.

Storm-Resistant Construction

Homes designed to minimize the impact of high winds stand a better chance of surviving a catastrophic storm. Round homes with reinforced wood framing, continuous floor-to-ceiling metal strapping, and radial roof trusses disperse wind forces during a storm to prevent a collapse.

Power Generators

Utility service may be interrupted during and after a storm hits, especially in areas like blizzard-prone New England. A backup generator is a smart investment for maintaining lighting, refrigeration, smoke and CO alarms, and security systems after a big storm. Generators range from small emergency units that can keep a few appliances running to whole-home generators that turn on automatically during a blackout.

Solar Heating

Solar-powered hot water systems work independently from the power grid, which makes them an ideal home upgrade in areas with increasing storms. These water heaters provide water for showering, cooking, and cleaning during any condition, and the passive solar design continues working when utility-powered systems are unusable.

Smart Fire Alarm Systems

Damaged electrical breakers cause frequent fires in storm-ravaged areas, putting your home at risk while you and your neighbors are potentially evacuated. A smart fire alarm can detect a fire earlier and automatically alert emergency services, even when you’re away. They provide an additional layer of security for an event many homeowners don’t anticipate after a storm.

Sustainability

Homeowners across the US are recognizing their role in mitigating future climate impacts through responsible building design. The latest green buildings incorporate energy technologies and intelligent architectural features to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprint. A sustainable home is often more resilient to disaster impacts than a traditional home.

Solar Energy Systems

Solar panel installation
Solar energy systems provide renewable, green electricity for homes of all sizes.

Solar energy systems provide renewable, green electricity for homes of all sizes. The latest solar panels are efficient and inexpensive and can generate electricity for decades after their installation. These systems are better for the environment than oil or natural gas, and the panels themselves can be designed to provide additional protection from storm damage. Solar systems can also be designed for off-grid use during power outages with a backup battery system.

Passive Heating and Cooling

Could you live in your home without air conditioning or heat? Buildings designed for passive heating and cooling don’t require electricity to remain habitable by using an airtight building envelope, proper building orientation, and heat-absorbing floor materials.

Passive heating and cooling also dramatically reduce utility costs and the environmental impact of your home. The technology is often designed from the ground up, but some buildings can be retrofit, depending on location and orientation.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are the brain of today’s smart homes. These clever devices act as hubs for multiple smart home technologies, controlling the climate of your home with a precise suite of sensors and IoT capabilities. A smart thermostat can learn your schedule over time and make automatic adjustments to your heating and cooling, making your home significantly more energy-efficient.

Smart technology: Ecobee Smart thermostat
A smart thermostat can learn your schedule over time and make automatic adjustments to your heating and cooling, making your home significantly more energy-efficient.

Low-Impact Housing Materials

Homes constructed in the last five or six decades often used materials that pose significant risks to human and environmental health. The green building sector recommends a shift to locally-sourced or recycled materials that minimize harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemical treatments. A building that utilizes green materials will provide better air quality and safety for its occupants while reducing the impact of construction on the environment.

Smart Lighting

Smart lightbulbs are one of the easiest upgrades for any home. LED smart bulbs are highly efficient and often last for multiple years without replacement. When connected to a smart hub or bridge, smart lightbulbs can be remotely controlled using a smartphone. In addition to your energy conservation, these bulbs can help discourage looting after a disaster by automatically mimicking your lighting schedule when you’re not at home.

Conclusion

A smarter home is a smarter investment for the future. The future of the Earth’s climate is uncertain, and outdated building technologies are inadequate for meeting the challenge. The right technologies can protect you and your family from financial or personal loss during the next big disaster, and the best time to upgrade is right now.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson

With 14 years of experience working in the non-profit field, I branched out as a freelance writer in 2017. I enjoy writing articles that educate and inspire others to innovate, make smart decisions, be resourceful, alleviate stress and make the world a safer, more socially-connected place.

Topics I cover: tech, home, safety & security, parenting, leadership & management, sustainability.

Words to describe me: driven, creative, fun-loving, resourceful and collaborative.

Personal Interests: Hiking, gardening, art, travel, board games.

Strengths (according to Gallup's Strengths Finder 2.0):
1) Achiever, 2) Developer, 3) Learner, 4) Positivity and 5) Empathy.
Krystal Rogers-Nelson

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