National Academies of Sciences Awards LSU and Louisiana Sea Grant Funds to Bolster Gulf Coast Resilience
BATON ROUGE – When buying a home, people often weigh the quality of the schools, crime rates, cost and property values into their buying equation. Rarely do they think about disaster risk, mostly because there is no easy way to do so.
Carol Friedland, the Cajun Constructors and Performance Contractors associate professor in the LSU Bert S. Turner Construction Management department, is a co-principal investigator on one of the four new projects focused on enhancing community resilience in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico region. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program recently announced that it has awarded a total of $10.7 million in this latest round of Gulf Coast resiliency grants. LSU faculty and Louisiana Sea Grant College Program researchers are a part of two of the four funded projects.
Friedland and fellow co-principal investigators Jim Wilkins, Niki Pace and Melissa Trosclair Daigle with the Louisiana Sea Grant Law & Policy Program, or LSGLPP, have received a $3.4 million grant to help people make smarter housing decisions based on hazard risks and mitigation of those risks. The lead principal investigator for this grant is Chris Emrich, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida.
“The first line of defense in reducing risk to human life and property is residing in a home protected from natural hazards and its impacts. Safe housing should be equitably available, not just accessible to those knowledgeable enough to seek out information or wealthy enough to build fortified homes,” Friedland said.
Friedland said many residents are unaware that the building codes and zoning regulations meant to protect them in a disaster have likely become outdated as environmental stressors, local development patterns and construction practices have changed over time. Additionally, in recent decades, Gulf Coast communities have dealt with more frequent and severe impacts from climate sensitive hazards, extreme weather and human-caused disasters. Additionally, high rates of relative sea level rise in places like Louisiana have significantly increased risks to the built environment. The capacity to recover from these disasters can vary from one community to the next, depending on a range of social, economic, environmental and other factors. Chronically stressed communities can find the path to recovery particularly difficult. Friedland and colleagues will also assess the mental health costs of experiencing damage, loss or threat of loss of housing.
“The LSGLPP team will conduct research on legal issues that affect homebuyers such as real-estate disclosure laws and liability issues,” said Wilkins, director of LSGLPP. These disclosures have the potential to impact homebuyers’ awareness of local hazards as well.
As part of this project, LSGLPP will be assisting with community engagement and the development of community resilience strategies. The team will help develop and lead focus groups across the Gulf Coast states that will identify practical implications and translation of study findings; test the uptake and efficacy of risk data and information; inform the design of surveys; and assist in the design of user-centered tools and outputs. Additionally, they will help with the outreach on tools developed through the project.
“This interdisciplinary project is the type of research needed to enable Louisiana Sea Grant to achieve its mission of promoting resilient communities and economies by informing residents about risks associated with changing coastal hazards,” said Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program.
With support from this grant, the interdisciplinary team of 19 researchers from nine universities and research organizations will work toward providing homebuyers and renters a more complete picture of potential hazards and what it would take to protect a property against risks, such as hurricanes, sea level rise and sink holes. The team will also develop easy-to-use tools such as apps, maps and websites, which potential buyers can use to explore and become more “hazard-aware.” The team plans to build tools to easily plug into real estate sites such as Zillow, Realtor, Redfin and Trulia or neighborhood social networking sites such as Nextdoor. These sites will allow potential buyers and current homeowners to easily see what a property’s HazardScore is and quickly understand how to mitigate any threats a home might be subjected to before making a final decision.
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program Associate Executive Director of Research Matt Bethel is a co-principal investigator on another project, which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program has awarded $2.1 million. Bethel and collaborators at Tulane University will help determine how the United Houma Nation can adapt to climate-related and other short- and long-term stressors while maintaining the integrity of its community and culture. The United Houma Nation is a Louisiana state-recognized tribe primarily based in southeastern Louisiana that is striving to maintain its unique culture amidst dramatic climatic, environmental and socio-economic change.
“Utilizing a community-based participatory research approach, this transdisciplinary project will identify opportunities to promote actions by the United Houma Nation to adapt to coastal hazards, such as sea-level rise and other climate-related impacts, while also maximizing peer-to-peer learning opportunities through the tribe’s connections and Louisiana Sea Grant’s Gulf of Mexico regional network,” said Bethel, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the LSU Department of Environmental Sciences and will be recruiting a new graduate student to work on this project with him.
The research team will examine existing and emerging stressors, identify resilience strategies and produce actionable information, tools and interventions that can be used by the tribe to navigate these challenges. Results from this project may help other Gulf Coast communities facing similar issues.
National Academies’ Gulf Research Program Awards $10.7 Million in Grants to Four Gulf Coast Community Resilience Projects: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=10222019&utm_source=Gulf+Research+Program+Updates&utm_campaign=0b14e73a69-2019_10_22_TC-5_awards&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_367e0eb01a-0b14e73a69-404701509
Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations
LSU College of Engineering
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program