Run From The Water: AIA Storm Surge & Flooding Symposium

“Run from the water, hide from the wind” is a catchphrase used by emergency management teams to help coastal residents prepare for oncoming hurricanes. Even during heavy rainstorms, the city of Houston is particularly prone to flooding events due to its elevation close to sea level and its system of natural waterways that are quick to spill out of their banks. Thus, AIA Houston teamed up with elected officials from the City of Houston and Harris County to hold a storm surge and flooding symposium that would discuss recurring flood-related challenges.

While the City of Houston Chief Resilience Officer pointed out during the event that no flood-related deaths have occurred inside residences or corporate/commercial structures within Houston’s long-term history, these types of structures are susceptible to water damage that can render them unusable. The economic losses from businesses relocating – or closing down – and the personal costs of displaced residents have exceeded billions of dollars.

The event was opened by Houston City Councilman David W. Robinson who is an architect and has served on the Planning Commission under two different mayors. Several local officials and experts in climate, terrain and economic development also participated. In his capacity as co-chair of the American Institute of Architects – Houston Chapter Urban Design committee with along with Page Senior Associate Marcus Martinez, Page Principal John Clegg facilitated audience questions during the two panel discussions about flooding and storm surge respectively.  

Page believes that given what we know and understand about climate and terrain, it is the responsibility of planners and designers to integrate resiliency into site planning. building massing, orientation, programming and system designs. The firm has received national attention and awards for the success of its resilient built structures in Buffalo Bayou Park, a narrow linear urban park sited on the banks of a large bayou that floods repetitively. 

The firm also has publicly gone on record in explaining the role of architecture in protecting infrastructure from flooding. Page Principal John Clegg, Page Principal Jeff Willis, Page Associate Principal Elizabeth Foster, Page Sustainability Project Manager Jill Kurtz and others have written and presented on the topic. Each has a different area of expertise: design, engineering, urban planning and sustainabilty but this subject intersects with many facets of work at Page. 

Houston Public Media covered the event and also provided audio of a related interview. To visit the story on their website, click here