In this report, Philip Berke and several colleagues present their research on how New Urbanist design has (or has not) been used to promote community resilience in the face of natural disaster. Berke, who teaches at the University of North Carolina’s Department of City and Regional Planning, takes a very nuts-and-bolts approach, focusing on rewriting codes to build in awareness of vulnerabilities to things like– well, floods, for example.
No urban design code is going to help with a 13-foot storm surge. But the dramatic devastation of Sandy is not the only kind of challenge to the urban fabric, and Berke’s suggestions might well prove useful in addressing the increasing number of “ordinary” floods. The question he raises– Can urban design do anything to help shield communities from the effects of disasters, or help them recover more quickly afterwards?– is one that, at the very least, should be asked.
“Despite its emphasis on high densities, New Urbanism holds considerable promise for reducing vulnerability caused by development in dangerous locations. Mitigation techniques may allow New Urban developments to become a more com- patible alternative to sprawl for creating disaster resilient communities. The proliferation of New Urban development offers living laboratories for testing new ideas on how best to integrate mitigation initiatives into urban form.”