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WITH Jay Raskin,
Public Member of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, Ecola Architects

Jay Raskin worked in France and the Bay Area before starting his own practice on the northern Oregon Coast in the early 1990's.  This coincided with the growing awareness that Oregon was faced with a Cascadia earthquake and resulting tsunami.  Starting with helping local builders and home owners understand the new seismic building requirements, Jay became in involved in preparing local coast communities for the eventual Cascadia event.  This included being a member of  Cannon Beach's Emergency Preparedness Committee and later initiating the Post-Disaster Recovery Planning for the city as city councilor/mayor.  He was part of the Ad-hoc Design Team to create a Cannon Beach City Hall/Tsunami Evacuation Building, the first attempt to implement FEMAP646 Guidelines for Design of Structures for Vertical Evacuation from Tsunamis. 

After helping pass HR-3 The Oregon Resilience Plan, he became a public member of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC) which was tasked with creating the plan and was the co-chair of Coast Task Group.  A Regional Advisor for the Historic Preservation League of Oregon (HPLO), Jay was also the chair the year long Roundtable effort that produced the HPLO Special Report: Resilient Masonry Buildings: Saving Lives, Livelihoods, and the Livability of Oregon's Historic Downtowns.  He is the founder of Ecola Architects and is currently living in Portland, in a house that he bolted down to its foundation.

Click here to read the Oregon Resilience Plan.


Jay Raskin
Public Member of the
Oregon Seismic Safety
Policy Advisory Commission,
Ecola Architects

Why is it important that architects be more involved in long-term policy projects like the Oregon Resiliency Plan?

The Oregon Resilience Plan specifically addresses the impact of a Cascadia Magnitude 9.0 earthquake on the State of Oregon, an earthquake and resulting tsunami that will affect a roughly 800 mile stretch of Pacific coastline from northern California to southern British Columbia. It is among the very large disasters that can affect multiple states, have the potential for significant loss of life, and huge economic impacts. This conceptual framework comes the work of SPUR's Resilient City effort for the City of San Francisco, and a similar state wide effort, Resilient Washington.

Architects have largely been absent in this effort. The main push for resilience has come from the engineering and emergency preparedness communities. The engineers have realized that a more systematic approach was needed that included studying interdependencies between engineered systems. The emergency preparedness community has made great strides in developing continuity planning and understanding the long term economic impacts of natural disasters. The result has been the flipping of the disaster cycle (response, relief, recovery, and mitigation) to focus on mitigation and becoming resilient.

In many ways, resiliency planning is the flip side of the sustainability effort where architects have a strong presence. Resilience needs to be considered a part of sustainability, since destruction of the built environment from a disaster makes the goals of sustainability that much harder to achieve.

Architects are well suited to be involved in this discussion, given they are versed in integrating the needs and requirements of clients into a finished building.

Your plan specifically assumes a 9.0 earthquake event – strong enough to be devastating under almost any circumstances. Can you explain how the report defines ‘resiliency’ and what baseline or target level it seeks to achieve?

The goal of the Oregon Resilience Plan is for Oregon to attain, within a 50 year period, the level of resilience demonstrated by Chile and Japan, where 90 percent of essential transportation, utility and communication services were fully functional within four weeks of major earthquakes. The seismic risk of Oregon was little understood until recently. In addition, it has had few of the crustal earthquakes experienced by Washington or California. Consequently, about 85% of the building stock is vulnerable, as is much of its infrastructure. The Oregon Resilience Plan identifies key interdependencies linking critical infrastructure systems that will support Oregon’s emergency response and economic recovery.

When sustainability became a hot topic for architects, a lot of the discussion centered on easy-to-reach “low hanging fruit.” With regard to resilience, what is the low hanging fruit that architects can start collecting immediately for their clients?

The "low hanging fruit" for resiliency can start simply with architects looking at their own architectural practices and ask what their own plans are for business continuity would in the face of a disaster. While it is a simple question, it can have profound ramifications as they basically go through the process. While much of this is centered on the human resource and business practices, the implications for buildings become clear as well. Architects are no different than many others in under-appreciating low risk, but high impact events. How many architectural firms are located in buildings that don't meet current seismic standards? How many architects ask the additional question of what the seismic performance of a building really is? Will the building still be useable? Can repairs be made while still occupied? Where will the firm go it the building can't be occupied while being repaired? Will utilities be available following the disaster? If not, how long is expected to take before a return to service?

These questions, along with strategies for dealing with them can then become part of the initial discussions of client needs.

What could an AIA member, who is just finding out about efforts like this for the first time, do to get more involved in their city or state?

AIA members can get valuable information about the disaster risks in their communities from FEMA, State and local offices of Emergency Preparedness, Planning, or Geology. Reaching out to the engineering, planning, and emergency preparedness communities and learning about their resiliency efforts is also important. Architects can also look at local community efforts already in place.

Many AIA chapters have disaster committees. These typically are focused on emergency response efforts. While this is important work, expanding the scope of these committees or forming a Resiliency committee would be useful. The efforts of the New York AIA "Post-Sandy: Designing a Resilient New York" are a great start in this direction. [Ed. Note: This and much more is offered by the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee]

If you are already involved in the sustainability community, you can start integrating resiliency into the existing sustainability framework.

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