Gulf of Mexico
A satellite image of Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the Texas coast on August 25, 2017. Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch

TX - Experts Aim to Make Historic Properties Along Gulf Coast More Hurricane-Proof

JULY 22, 2020 — With Texas being a prime target for hurricanes, UTSA’s Center for Cultural Sustainability is launching a two-year effort to improve the resilience of historic buildings along the state’s Gulf Coast so they can better survive severe weather events.

The National Weather Service predicts this year’s U.S. hurricane season will include a higher than average number of storms. As experts anticipate increasingly greater challenges due to climate change, coastal communities must brace for impact. But historic districts—which by their very nature can’t relocate—face unique challenges.

To address this problem, an interdisciplinary team of researchers is turning to historic houses of worship. In addition to technical solutions, the work will establish a Sacred Places Heritage Network for Disaster Resilience, providing support to sacred places listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located within the most impacted areas of Hurricane Harvey damage in 2017.

Backed by emergency supplemental funding from the Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and the Texas Historical Commission, the research project will create connections between multiple faith-based organizations and the communities they serve, empowering them to become more resilient to large-scale disruption.

“Anticipating an increase in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, we must ackowledge that people are what make a place truly sustainable, and people are asking, ‘What can we do to better prepare?’” said William Dupont, who is director of the Center for Cultural Sustainability and holds the San Antonio Conservation Society Endowed Professorship in architecture at UTSA. “Historic places of worship are community anchors, locally supported by committed volunteers and holding collective memories, wisdom and lessons of cultural sustainability. Our project will help them attain higher resilience plus disseminate information on sustainability.”

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