The mission of the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology (THC-IT) is to work with various other federal, state and local agencies and other university affiliates to coordinate the efforts before, during and after a hurricane in the region. The center will be a University-Industry consortium.
The specific objectives of the center are as follows:
- To develop new smart materials for use in hurricane protection and mitigation systems for real-time monitoring;
- To develop smart anchor systems for window and door screens, dwellings, pipelines, transportation facilities and onshore and offshore structures to withstand hurricanes;
- To develop test facilities for evaluating performance of various new products;
- To develop specifications and standards for products used for protecting against hurricanes;
- To design evacuation centers, buildings and houses to withstand hurricanes
- To develop innovative protection systems for coastline to protect against storm surge and other related flooding;
- To address issues related to evacuation of local neighborhoods, cities and counties in addition to traffic and transportation planning and developing smart traffic systems;
- To develop protocols for speedy recovery of the public and private sectors (utilities, hospitals, petrochemical industries, transportation facilities, offshore platforms, cities and communities) after a hurricane. Develop repair materials and technologies for rapidly repairing houses to complex civil infrastructures;
- To develop educational programs for the community and organize seminars, conferences and workshop related to hurricanes.
Mitigation offers the best alternative for reducing potential damages from hurricanes. Merely being prepared to respond to the inevitable damage that will occur from storms does nothing to reduce the ultimate cost of these dangerous events. Effective mitigation can only be achieved through increased research, vulnerability assessments, education and outreach to build a solid foundation for policy-making and building practices. Hurricane mitigation must continue to evolve by including not only a wide range of damage reduction tools such as improved building design and structural engineering methods, new construction technologies and materials, land use strategies, and building codes, but also new methods of data collection, continued social and behavioral research as well as improved communication technology, computer modeling, simulation and visualization.
It is in the state and national interest, to support the development and implementation of a rational research strategy, focusing on the reduction of potential hurricane damage. Building upon current programs and other initiatives with shared objectives, this strategy will be based on single focused goal of reducing the cost of hurricanes to the federal, state, and local governments, as well as to businesses and households.
Extreme hurricane events in recent years have, with an increasing sense of urgency, reinforced the proposition that the affected states and the nation must continue to work on, but also move beyond weather prediction and evacuation to achieve significant damage reduction. Against this background, increasing population and urban development in coastal areas highlight the dynamic nature of our vulnerability to hurricanes and the urgency of the problem. According to the recent census, population in the most hurricane vulnerable states has increased by 20% in the last ten years, and this trend is predicted to continue. In the Houston area alone, the city with the highest population along the Gulf Coast, the population is predicted to grow by 50% in the next 15 years. This brings numerous challenges to the planning of new construction, and renewal of old structures in hurricane prone neighborhoods. While numerous critical components are situated along the coast, many problems that impact effective preservation of the cities are associated with the urban environment. Flooding is a major problem in urban and coastal areas during a hurricane and must be addressed with currently available technology and environmentally friendly solutions.
The University of Houston has extensive expertise in materials science and engineering, assessment technologies, design and construction of bridges, structures and pipelines, water and wastewater treatment, flooding issues, performance of damaged foundations, and retrofitting and repairing technologies that relate to urban infrastructure. Numerous basic and applied research projects have been conducted for local, state and federal entities over the past few decades.
To contribute to the development and implementation of a strong and coherent research agenda focusing on hurricane loss reduction, the proposed THC-IT at the University of Houston (UH) will bring together the wealth of existing expertise in Texas and around the nation, especially in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, into an integrated multi-year, multidisciplinary cooperative research efforts to addresses the major issues. The THC-IT will coordinate research initiated by the industry and local, state and federal governments.