NYC airs ideas for preparing buildings for storms

Backup power, tougher windows among NYC ideas for preparing bldgs for storms, rising seas

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City should safeguard its mass of buildings against climate threats through steps as imaginative as a home-elevation design competition and practical as making sure high-rise toilets will flush in a power outage, according to a city-commissioned report released Thursday.

Two days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a sweeping blueprint for protecting New York from rising seas, storms and other extreme weather, Thursday's report took a granular look at how to carry out a piece of that: making buildings more resilient.

Apartment towers should be outfitted with common faucets that would work in a power failure; new windows and doors in homes should be wind-resistant; and commercial skyscrapers should have exterior hookups for generators, the report said. It was crafted by a more than 200-person experts' group convened after Superstorm Sandy.

"Sandy clearly underscored why we need to do more to protect the buildings in our city, and not just from hurricanes," Bloomberg said at a news conference.

The suggestions include both building code changes and ideas that would be circulated as recommendations.

While the building code is reviewed and updated regularly, Sandy spurred a new focus on making changes specifically to counter the expected effects of climate change. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said lawmakers would take up the report's ideas at a hearing later this month.

"Any that we can codify, we will," she said at the news conference.

Sandy killed 43 people in the city and flooded stretches of it on Oct. 29. Many homes and businesses were without power for days or longer. Homes and apartments without heat became uninhabitable as temperatures dropped. High-rises were unable to run elevators or pump drinking water to upper floors.

"We should never again see people groping their way up darkened stairwells," said Russell Unger, the executive director of the Urban Green Council, which led the Building Resiliency Task Force.

They called for requiring most new apartment buildings to be able to power emergency lighting in hallways and stairwells for extended blackouts and making existing apartment houses meet the same standard in two years. Such buildings are generally required to have emergency lights now, but only for 90 minutes, according to the report.

Other suggestions include urging property owners to move electrical and other key equipment to higher floors, an idea city officials have often cheered, and extending requirements for light-colored roofs to keep buildings cooler. At the moment, the requirement covers only flat roofs, the report said.

It also suggests designing sidewalks to capture storm water in tree pits, allowing building owners to install temporary flood barriers and changing rules it says discourage some building owners from installing generators.

The leader of a powerful landlords' group, the Real Estate Board of New York, embraced the recommendations. While adding protections, "it also provides relief and flexibility from existing regulations to allow buildings to best adapt," President Steven Spinola said in a statement.

The City Council and administration have already begun making changes to building rules after Sandy.

Bloomberg, for example, waived some restrictions in March so homeowners could rebuild Sandy-damaged houses to new flood elevation standards without running afoul of height restrictions. And the council set new rules for home-elevation work, such as requiring a special inspector to supervise the project, in an effort to protect homeowners from shoddy jobs.

___

Follow Jennifer Peltz at http:/twitter.com/jennpeltz

Rates

View Comments (11)