Rethink building design

By Zack Budryk

An increase in extreme weather means hospitals and other healthcare facilities must think about building design. For example, the St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Corp. is part of two hospital reconstruction programs seeking to overhaul hospital design with climate change in mind. The projects will rebuild facilities in New Orleans and Joplin, Missouri destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a tornado in 2011, respectively.

For the New Orleans facility, McCarthy addressed the type of disaster that destroyed the Veterans Affairs facility by literally turning the plan upside down, with the emergency room at least 20 feet above base flood level and features such as kitchens, electrical equipment and emergency generators, which are typically located in the basement, on the upper floors instead. In Joplin, McCarthy incorporated tornado-proofing features such as "safe rooms" located further in the building and glass with better wind resistance.

Similarly, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg developed a plan to certify the city's hospitals for extreme weather preparedness in the future. "We want to avoid emergency evacuations whenever possible. And we have to make sure the facilities we depend on in emergencies are there for us when we need them most," Bloomberg said, adding, "So we'll amend the construction codes to require new facilities to meet a high level of flood resistance--and to have access to backup capacity for power and other critical systems, not only in case of flooding, but also heat waves."

Rethink building design