After a natural disaster, houses get bigger not better

Popular Science | 12/13/2018 | Staff
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Despite the well-documented chaos wrought by sea level rise, hurricanes, and climate change, Americans keep returning to imperiled coastal areas. In fact, a new study in the journal Nature Sustainability indicates residents may be living larger than they were before the storm.

In an analysis of satellite images of five American coastal communities before and after a catastrophic weather event, the authors found “the same pattern at all five locations: since the last major hurricane, larger residential buildings have tended to replace smaller ones,” according to the study.

Eli - Lazarus - Lecturer - Geomorphology - University

Eli Lazarus, a lecturer in geomorphology at the University of Southampton and lead author on the study, says that the findings have important repercussions for taxpayers. It may also fill in a few more pixels in our big picture understanding of the way Americans respond to disasters.

To estimate the mean change in real estate, Lazarus and his team gathered satellite data, from sources like Google Earth, of five hurricane-prone places: Mantoloking, New Jersey; Hatteras and Frisco, North Carolina; Santa Rosa Island, Florida; Dauphin Island, Alabama; and Bolivar, Texas. They looked at images taken before the most recent hurricane and compared them to satellite data gathered post-recovery.

Study - Inclusion - Criteria - Structure - Percent

Even with conservative study inclusion criteria (any structure that experienced a 15 percent or smaller change in size was excluded, Lazarus says, because with “satellite imagery, there’s tilt, the sun can glare in places, and you have to be careful with what you’re digitizing”), the results were striking. The study found that rebuilds were between 19 and 50 percent larger than the original structure. New construction increased in mean size between 14 percent and 55 percent compared to the buildings that stood before a given storm.

Lazarus admits that “people can renovate their houses for all manner of reasons,” and houses everywhere in the United States have...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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