Popular Science profiles CannonDesign’s work with both Nantucket Cottage and Texas Children’s Hospitals to create resilient health facilities in the face of weather disasters in their new piece: How Hospitals Prepare for Increasingly Dangerous Hurricane Seasons.
The article identifies the numerous dangers that can arise when hospitals lose power or need to evacuate during storms. It explains: “That’s why hospitals go to great lengths to prepare for all manner of seemingly-unthinkable scenarios, with copious plans and regular rehearsals. It’s also why they’re relying on architects and designers to ensure new buildings are designed with disaster in mind. ‘Traditionally, we’ve been designing on the assumption that weather is normal and follows usual weather patterns,’ says Mike Cavanaugh, who leads sustainability efforts at CannonDesign. ‘But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that unpredictability is the new normal.’”
To cope, many hospitals are pursuing a holy grail of climate resilience, which is defined by the Resilient Design Institute as “the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.” Using site-specific climate models and cutting-edge engineering techniques, architects are trying to get ahead of sea level rise, inland flooding, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and drought.
The article focuses specifically on resilient design strategies at Nantucket Island Hospital and Texas Children’s documented in excerpts below:
On Nantucket Island Hospital
In Nantucket, many of the most utilitarian features are obscured by aesthetically-pleasing details. Parapets up high help the new building blend in with its historic surroundings, but they also obscure boilers and backup generators that are bolted to the roof, far away from ruinous waves. And, Messervy says, “behind the shingles is a very robust weather protection system.” It may look like its humble neighbors, but the hospital is build to meet the comprehensive building code of Miami-Dade County, one of the most hurricane-battered regions of the world. There is no basement. Walls are double-hulled; many low-level surfaces cast from concrete; and windows are designated blast-resistant and designed to resist strong winds and swirling debris.
On Texas Children’s Hospital
“Houston itself is very flat,” says Jill Pearsall of Texas Children’s Hospital. “The drainage is not fast.” That’s why the children’s hospital and a few of its fellow 50-plus facilities at the Texas Medical Center have invested in enormous flood doors, installed in the tunnels that connect many of the institutions together… it makes all the difference when water is threatening to pour in.”