Panel 2 – Disaster Preparedness and Response

In the last ten years since Katrina, public interest designers have become increasingly effective contributors of new ideas about preparing and responding to environmental disasters. The panel will discuss new roles and models for environmental resilience.


  • David Hill, NCSU, Associate Professor, Moderator/Presenter
  • Elaine Morales Diaz, bcWORKSHOP, SEED Award Winner
  • Emilie Taylor Welty, Tulane City Center, SEED Award Winner
  • Betsy MacLean, Hester Street Collaborative
David Hill, AIA, is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Co-Director of the Coastal Dynamics Design Lab at the College of Design where he has taught full-time since 2007. While at NC State, David has led graduate and undergraduate design studios, digital representation courses, and seminars that focus on integrative digital simulation processes, architectural prototypes, and design strategies for coastal regions. Presentation Abstract: North Carolina’s coastal communities are vulnerable to threats from long-term sea level variations and powerful Atlantic storm forces. The NC State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab (CDDL) initiated Pro-Active Recovery Community Structures (PARCS), a design concept that creates public amenities and housing for day-to-day use that can rapidly transform into post-disaster staging and recovery sites. This presentation illustrates the CDDL’s community-engaged research and design work with the Town of Beaufort, NC. The studio developed multiple design scenarios for adaptive, multifaceted public facilities that build and restore community life before, during, and after disasters strike.
Elaine Morales is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. She led the Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Pilot Program (RAPIDO) and works with other housing projects at [bc]. Acting as Chief Advocate of the Rio Grande Valley office; Elaine connects contextual, practical, and analytic research with the offices ongoing programs, and supports policy and community capacity initiatives. Elaine obtained a Bachelor of Environmental Design, a Master of Architecture from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR); and a Master of International Cooperation from the International University of Catalunya (UIC) in Barcelona, Spain. Prior to joining [bc], she participated in the Post-Flood Sports Workshop with the Pac Rim Studio of Architecture for Humanity (AFH) in Brazil, and worked as a research and needs assessment intern for the Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation branch of UN-HABITAT in Kenya. Presentation Abstract: Disaster recovery models have been inadequate in meeting the long-term housing needs of affected families. The RAPIDO pilot program identified obstacles at Federal, State, and Local levels and tested an alternative system to housing reconstruction. The program found that a lack of planning for recovery is at the root of why it takes extended periods of time to return residents to a permanent home on their property; resulting in displacement, disrupted social networks and less resilient communities. Through developing a local disaster recovery housing plan and establishing “pre-covery” activities as part of preparedness and response planning, a community will be better situated to respond to a disaster event without sacrificing home quality or choice.
Emilie Taylor Welty is a Professor of Practice and Design Build Manager at Tulane City Center, a design center of the Tulane School of Architecture. She has served as project manager for Grow Dat Youth Farm, LOOP’s Gathering Pavilion and the Tulane design-build portions of Parisite Skatepark. Emilie’s creative practice explores the intersection of making and Public Interest Design, and she has a firm in New Orleans with Seth Welty and Dan Etheridge called Colectivo. Emilie Taylor Welty looks at how disaster preparedness works on the ground in New Orleans at Tulane City Center. Their work can be described as a form of radical incrementalism, which here will be told through the lens of their water management work. Across projects the TCC’s efforts to educate, fabricate, and collaborate on stormwater issues are increasing capacity in a flood prone city.
Betsy MacLean, Far Rockaway, Queens on the outskirts of New York City, was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. With train service down, the peninsula was literally cut off from the rest of the city. Thousands of residents were without essential services including electricity, heat and clean water for weeks. However, the social, economic, public health and infrastructure challenges residents faced were not created, but only exacerbated by the storm. Social resilience, in this situation, was as, if not more important than physical. By using research, mapping, design, and innovative engagement tools, a multidisciplinary team of planners, architects, developers and community organizers worked with local residents to ensure they played a central role in a redevelopment process that resulted in concrete benefits for the community – including a grocery store and community center.



David Hill

  • Mission of the Coastal Dynamics Design Lab (CDDL) is to organize and lead trans-disciplinary research and design teams to address critical ecological and community development challenges in vulnerable coastal regions, with a concentrated focus on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.
  • Focuses on NC coastal regions, especially in Beaufort
  • Area is prone to flooding- community mentality is that of “we will just stick it out”
  • Studio has gathered information from community, geography, aerial photography and has used technology such as videography to document the story of the place
  • Studio has developed program called “P.A.R.C.S” (pro-active recovery community structures), and students use community input to inform studio projects that address the town’s needs such as recreation areas/access, park space, flooding mitigation

Elaine Morales Diaz

  • After 2008 Hurricane Dolly, RAPIDO addresses disaster recovery housing by creating a catalog of housing options for residents in need of immediate housing
  • Prototype houses have been built (appr. 20) in Lower Rio Grand Valley
  • bcW has found that 1. Pre-Design 2. Pre-Procurement and 3. Preparedness + Training = Pre-covery versus re-covery
  • Process of RAPIDO included interviewing 6 neighborhoods in LRGV of what they liked, disliked about neighborhood and houses – and what they would like in a new house and/or redeveloped neighborhood
  • bcW continues research and refinement on RAPIDO model

Emilie Taylor Welty

  • After Hurricane Katrina, socioeconomic disparity prevailed in New Orleans : 160,000 homes destroyed
  • “We’re doing acupuncture in the city through small-impact projects”
  • “Think small and collective”
  • An example of truly listening to the community:
    • a project was conceived to create a linear park in low-income area “Green Line Project”
    • a rail line would be converted into a walking path, however after meeting with the neighborhood, the studio found that is not what they wanted at all
    • community meeting were held and determined community wanted flea market, or BBQ area, or fruit trees—- this all informed project
    • lesson learned: LISTEN to the community and do not assume what they want
  • “PID is what you make it”
  • An example of designing for the other 99% of the time, when natural disaster is not a part of the equation
    • rain gardens were developed at residences to alleviate daily rainwater and help with stormwater management
    • be a part of projects that address daily environmental concerns, not just major disasters

Betsy MacLean

  • After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, HSC worked with Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation, Americans for Equality and Local Initiatives Support Corporation to create a participatory process in the redevelopment of the Rockaways – a community geographically cut off from the City
  • Worked with residents to determine needs of community: grocery store and community center was determined as main priority- to be sited on vacant lot
  • HSC awaits acceptance of proposal on the site
  • HSC found that community meetings not only got feedback on what community wanted, but built community in itself through bringing people together in the community to talk about their community- the entire process was empowering