Designing for Disaster

May 11, 2014–September 13, 2015

As a result of research conducted after the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, a new fire management plan outlined strict guidelines for managing natural fires and allocated greater funding for fire management. Billings Gazette, James Woodcock.
As a result of research conducted after the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, a new fire management plan outlined strict guidelines for managing natural fires and allocated greater funding for fire management. Billings Gazette, James Woodcock.

Natural disasters can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. In 2012, the financial toll in the United States alone exceeded $100 billion, and the loss of life and emotional toll is immeasurable. No region of the country is immune: 112 events in 32 states were declared natural disasters in the U.S. during 2012.

The National Building Museum exhibition Designing for Disaster examines how we assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs yielding safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

Two primary questions help guide the Museum’s approach: Where should we build? How should we build?

Through unique objects, captivating graphics, and multimedia—including video testimonials—the exhibition explores new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, storm surge, flooding, sea level rise, tsunamis, and wildfires.

Designing for Disaster discusses disaster mitigation as an evolving science and highlights the tools and strategies that today’s planners, engineers, designers, emergency managers, scientists, environmentalists, and various business and community leaders are investigating and adopting to build safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

Because of the importance of housing, the exhibition features exemplary disaster-resistant residential design. In addition, the exhibition highlights a variety of other building or facilities: hospitals, schools, airports, public arenas/stadiums, fire/police stations, public transportation networks/systems, commercial buildings, and retail outlets. The selected structures are geographically dispersed throughout the country and have been designed to address at least one hazard in an exemplary way.

By showcasing innovative research, cutting-edge materials and technologies, and new thinking about how to work with natural systems and the environment, the exhibition presents a range of viable responses that are functional, pragmatic, and beautiful.

Praise for Designing for Disaster

“The exhibit’s most compelling demonstrations show how innovative engineering solutions can reduce the impact of disasters and, in fact, already are.” —The Washington Post

“Designing for Disaster, a new exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., demonstrates construction innovations designed to protect communities from the devastating affects of natural disasters; for instance, is the U.S. prepared for a massive earthquake like the tremblors that leveled parts of Haiti and Chile in 2010?” —The Science Channel

Mother Nature, flexing her muscles in the most destructive ways, weather disasters are a costly, deadly reality in the United States. But there are ways to build safer, disaster-resilient communities. At the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. they’re looking for new solutions.” —The Weather Channel

It’s as much the story of seismic engineers, researchers, architects, planners, and landscape architects as it is about the disasters themselves, given that the goal is blunting the destructive impacts of disasters.” —Landscape Architecture Magazine








Science Channel is our exclusive television media partner, and The Washington Post is a media partner.Designing for Disaster is also generously supported by AECOM; Center for Disaster Philanthropy; National Endowment for the Arts; ASSA ABLOY; Construction Specialties, Inc.; National Fire Protection Association; United Technologies Corporation; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Kingdom of The Netherlands; Association of State Floodplain Managers and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation; Florida International University; Nixon Peabody LLP; Rebuild by Design; RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; Arup; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and URS Corporation.

Generous in-kind contributions have been provided by Andersen Corporation; Construction Specialties, Inc.; Ernest Maier, Inc.; International Masonry Institute and the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers; Maccaferri; National Concrete Masonry Association; Oyster Recovery Partnership; ReadyReef, Inc.; Simpson Strong-Tie; Star Seismic; Taylor Devices, Inc.