You may joke with your kids about walking uphill in the snow to school, but the fact is that schoolchildren these days are more likely to encounter natural disasters than their parents were. School construction companies are recognizing this and implementing best practices in order to “natural disaster-proof” new buildings.
Before breaking ground, school construction companies must perform a thorough site assessment to determine what the possible risks are. It’s important to look at more than just natural disasters, as a plan should also include other potential hazards such as traffic and wildlife. A hazard mitigation plan can then be developed to identify hazards and come up with a way to mitigate them.
School construction should be performed utilizing high-performance buildings whenever possible. These high-performance buildings take into account the various hazards in a particular area by incorporating features that will compensate for them. For example, buildings may be slightly elevated in flood-prone areas, or include a storm shelter in locations where tornadoes are common. Areas around a school’s property might also be cleared in order to reduce the risk of wildfires.
It’s hard to imagine, but there are actually numerous one-room schoolhouses still in operation today. Most of these are made from wood, a material that is highly flammable and susceptible to wind damage. Today, school construction mostly utilizes concrete for a number of reasons. Not only does concrete resist fire, but it also provides protection during a tornado or hurricane. Reinforced concrete can often withstand earthquake damage, which is important here in Illinois because much of the state actually lies on a fault line.
School construction companies in Thailand have set the standard when it comes to designing earthquake-proof buildings. Officials there have constructed a steel-framed building that is totally reinforced with concrete. This school is also elevated off the ground somewhat to provide some protection against flooding. The roof contains alternating panels made from metal and bamboo. This allows natural light in during a power outage, and also helps the structure stay cool. The metal and bamboo panels also provide a great deal of protection against hail and heavy rain.
Illinois is also prone to heavy snowstorms, which means school construction must account for blizzards. As such, school roofs should be designed to hold at least 30 pounds of snow per square feet. Winter storms also tend to result in power outages. For this reason, a backup generator will ideally be included in a school’s construction plans, along with some type of weather monitoring system that would allow officials to dismiss students early whenever blizzard-like conditions are imminent.
Keeping kids safe is one of the top priorities on everyone’s list when planning a new school building. There is no greater priority than building a structure that kids will feel safe and secure in, as their peace of mind will go a long way toward ensuring they receive a quality education.