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Environmental Design for Hurricane Preparedness

Sustainability

Q&A with OBM International’s Jennifer Davidson

With all eyes on this year’s upcoming hurricane season, we look to experts in various design disciplines to help us understand what can be done during the design stage of projects to aid in hurricane preparedness. Jennifer Davidson brings a fresh perspective on how to use the outdoors, through sustainable environmental design, to help minimize storm damage.

Q. When should hurricane preparedness really begin?

A. Hurricane preparedness should always begin early when undertaking a new building project, this is also true for environmental and landscape design. It is wise to develop a planting plan and hardscape scheme during the planning stage to maximize the benefits of both hardscape and softscapes that will aide in coastal defense and flooding during tropical storms and hurricanes.

While it is disheartening, if your existing landscape has been totally disrupted after a hurricane do not despair, it creates an opportunity for a professional landscape plan designed to rejuvenate your landscape in the long-term and add resistance again future storms.

Q. In a project’s design phase what can you do to help minimize the impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms?

A. One of the most beneficial things a property owner can do is plant new trees in groups of five or more, and depending on the size of the tree, plant them within 10 feet of each other, but not in a straight line. This helps the environment deal with the heavy rains that accompany hurricanes. Groups of trees will help make them more wind-resistant and will help keep them standing. Grouping plants also help with storm flooding by slowing down the rate and quantity of water runoff that can lead to soil erosion. On a larger scale, complex root systems developed from coordinated plant groupings can be used to structurally reinforce and support slopes prone to erosion.

Q. What are things a property owner can do to prepare their property for storms?

A. Your landscape should always be maintained. Large trees can be pruned not only to maintain their shape but also help minimize hurricane damage from hurricane-force winds. As old trees are more susceptible to blowing over during high winds with high potential of damaging neighboring landscape and buildings, dead or dying trees should be removed.

Invasive species of trees and plants should always be removed from the landscape. Roots of invasive species, particularly in rocky island shorelines, damage cliff faces making them prone to collapse during high winds and rough seas.

While we cannot control the weather an environmental design plan can help to minimize the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes to island properties. A clear strategy during the planning phase of a design project is the best way to design your environment for maximum protection. If you’re interested in learning more on how to best use landscape for your property’s hurricane preparedness contact Jennifer or the OBM International team for more information.