This Westchester Architectural Firm Preps Buildings For Natural Disasters

KG&D Architects has found a niche outfitting Westchester-area buildings for the effects of dangerous weather.

With a seemingly endless string of natural disasters on the news, it is not surprising a pioneering local architectural firm has found brisk business outfitting buildings so they are prepared for the worst. KG&D Architects—a 21-year-old firm led by principles Russell Davidson, FAIA; Erik Kaeyer, AIA, LEED AP; and Walter P. Hauser, AIA—has recently outfitted a number of Westchester buildings to withstand impact from hurricanes, floods, and other meteorological disasters.

With three major projects directly related to natural disaster preparedness now under its belt, KG&D has been successfully weaving this increasingly vital specialization into its portfolio. (Natural disaster preparedness is not the only sector in which KG&D operates. Among the firm’s most notable past projects are the Jacob Burns Film Center Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville, The Pace University Judicial Institute, and the Post Road Elementary School.) “The architect’s prime responsibility is to safeguard the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public,” says Davidson, President and Managing Partner of KG&D. “While all buildings are required to resist wind and earthquake loads as a part of building codes and standards, as hurricanes become more prevalent in our region it is important to ensure that buildings can resist severe weather events and other natural disasters.”

These preparations can include installing backup generators, utilizing water and mold resistant materials, moving communications and technology into cloud based systems, relocating HVAC systems above floodplain levels, and reinforcing wall and roof systems.

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After a 2007 Nor’easter, the Bronxville Union Free School District turned to KG&D to better prepare its facilities for inclement weather as part of FEMA’s supported disaster relief. The firm relocated HVAC systems to the ceiling, moved electrical gear and the boiler to above floodplain levels, and transferred several rooms to the second floor. The facility’s basement was also designed to drain in the event of flooding.

Plans KG&D drew up for the Bronxville Union Free School District to move electrical gear and the boiler room to above floodplain levels.

Climate change, according to Davidson, has made such projects the new normal. “Resilient buildings and environments will only become more necessary in the future as climate continues to change, energy costs continue to rise and the cost of construction or repairs escalates even further,” says Davidson. “Change is constant in the design and construction industry.”

Another of the firm’s projects related to natural disaster preparation was outfitting the Brewster Central School District with generators that can provide energy in the event of an emergency and constantly power the building’s heating and cooling systems. This allows the school to save money on energy costs on a daily basis, while being ready for the next big storm ahead. KG&D also completed a generator project at the Darien Public Schools in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Davidson views such projects as a major element of KG&D’s portfolio, as well as an increasingly essential facet of building construction that architectural firms must take into account. “Resilient Design considerations are the new normal and have already made their way into building codes and standards,” he says. “KG&D views these standards and codes as a minimum starting point, and we work with our clients to discuss all the available options and approaches so that together, we can create beautiful, practical, and resilient projects for each design opportunity.”

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