Building code changes urged for storm prep

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to be known as "The Green Mayor" and has stated he thinks climate change may have been a reason for Hurricane Sandy. (Jan. 18, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

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A new report with 33 building code recommendations that offers a green approach to safeguard buildings and homes from storm surges was endorsed Thursday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn.

The building code recommendations will need City Council approval and will affect existing buildings and homes on the city's floodplains. There are at least 68,000 buildings located on the floodplains along the city's waterfront.

The recommendations were compiled by architects, engineers, real estate owners, building management companies and the Urban Green Council's New York chapter, a nonprofit that promotes research in urban development.

"Another Sandy is inevitable and New York isn't ready," said Russell Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council and chairman of the Building Resiliency Task Force, which proposed the recommendations.

The report said there will be more heat waves, heavy rains and storm surges that will cause more flooding, power outages and evacuations.

Unger said recommendations are "tangible and economically achievable steps that will prepare residents, buildings and the city for future extreme weather events."

The report says that the recommendations will help evacuated residents "quickly return to their homes."

It suggests requiring residential high-rise apartment buildings to install communal faucets in a common area so stranded higher-floor apartment dwellers can have access to drinking water for toilets during extended black outs.

The report even recommends a new code that would require commercial buildings to install toilets and faucets that can work off a power grid and on long-lasting batteries, or a toilet with a manual override.

It also recommends removing regulations that slow down the process of installing rooftop solar power sources and install sewage valves to stop backflow into basements.

New multifamily buildings would be required to provide light in stairwells and hallways during extended blackouts. "No longer will residents have to grope through darken stairways, Unger said.

Other recommendations include storing toxic materials in flood-proof areas and requiring all gas stations to have backup power sources so they can stay open during power outages.

The report even suggests planting salt-tolerant trees that are planted in "pits" where sidewalks slope down around them, creating a space to absorb rainwater.

For commercial buildings the report makes a recommendation that natural-gas generators be used as a backup power source.

The report's recommendations will be proposed at a City Council hearing June 27.

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