Larger Houses Replace Smaller When Rebuilding After Hurricanes

A study of hurricane-hit areas of the United States has revealed a trend of larger homes being built to replace smaller ones in the years following a storm. The research, led by the University of Southampton (UK) and published in the journal Nature Sustainability, shows that the sizes of new homes constructed after a hurricane often dwarf the sizes of those lost.

“Our findings highlight a ‘building back bigger’ trend in zones known to be prone to damage from extreme wind conditions and storm surge flooding,” said lead researcher Dr. Eli Lazarus, of the School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton. “This practice creates an intensification of coastal risk – through increased, high-value property being exposed to major damage or destruction.”

A team of scientists from the UK and U.S. measured changes in residential-building footprints at five locations on the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts which have collectively suffered the effects of six hurricane systems between 2003 and 2012. They compared satellite imagery from before the major storms hit with corresponding imagery from 2017.

The areas examined were Mantoloking (New Jersey), Hatteras and Frisco (North Carolina), Santa Rosa Island (Florida), Dauphin Island (Alabama) and Bolivar (Texas). Each of the locations are developed coastal barriers in designated flood-hazard areas, featuring mainly single family residential buildings.

The research, which also involved Coastal Carolina University, United States Geological Survey, University of North Carolina and Cardiff University, showed an overall pattern of larger homes replacing smaller ones across all five coastal locations.

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