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The impacts of power outages on the residents of contemporary multistorey apartment buildings in subtropical environments

Kennedy, Rosemary & Lewis, James (2012) The impacts of power outages on the residents of contemporary multistorey apartment buildings in subtropical environments. In Gomes, Vanessa & da Silva, Maristela G. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 4th CIB International Conference on Smart and Sustainable Built Environments (SASBE2012) : Emerging Economies (1st Edition), Fundacao De Desenvolvimento Da UNICAMP - Funcamp, Sao Paulo, Brazil, pp. 339-344.

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Abstract

With significant population growth experienced in South East Queensland over the past two decades and a high rate of growth expected to continue in coming decades, the Queensland Government is promoting urban consolidation planning policies to manage growth sustainably. Multi-residential buildings will play an important role in facilitating the increased densities which urban consolidation policies imply. However, a major flood event in January 2011 has brought to light the vulnerability of certain types of multi-residential typologies to power outages. The crisis conditions exposed how contemporary building design and construction practices, coupled with regulatory and planning issues, appear to have compromised the resilience and habitability of multi-storey residential buildings. In the greater urban area of Brisbane, Queensland, the debilitating dependence that certain types of apartment buildings have on mains electricity was highlighted by residents’ experiences of the Brisbane River flood disaster, before, during and after the event. This research examined high density residential buildings in West End, Brisbane, an inner city suburb which was severely affected by the flood and is earmarked for significant urban densification under the Brisbane City Plan. Medium-to-high-density residential buildings in the suburb were mapped in flooded and non-flooded locations and a database containing information about the buildings was created. Parameters included date of construction, number of storeys, systems of access and circulation, and potential for access to natural light and ventilation for habitable areas. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with residents involved in the owners’ management committees of several buildings to verify information the mapping could not provide. The interviews identified a number of critical systems failures due to power outage which had a significant impact on residents’ wellbeing, comfort and safety. Building services such as lifts, running water, fire alarms, security systems and air-conditioning ceased to operate when power was disconnected to neighbourhoods and buildings in anticipation of rising flood waters. Lack of access to buildings and dwellings, lack of safety, lack of building security, and lack of thermal comfort affected many residents whether or not their buildings were actually subjected to inundation, with some buildings rendered uninhabitable for a prolonged period. The extent of the impact on residents was dramatically influenced by the scale and type of building inhabited, with those dwelling in buildings under a 25m height limit, with a single lift, found to be most affected. The energy-dependency and strong trend of increasing power demands of high-rise buildings is well-documented. Extended electricity outages such as the one brought about by the 2011 flood in Queensland are likely to happen more frequently than the 50-year average of the flood event itself. Electricity blackouts can result from a number of man-made or natural causes, including shortages caused by demand exceeding supply. This paper highlights the vulnerability of energy-dependent buildings to power outages and investigates options for energy security for occupants of multi-storey buildings and makes recommendations to increase resilience and general liveability in multi-residential buildings in the subtropics through design modifications.

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ID Code: 54159
Item Type: Conference Paper
Keywords: multi-residential buildings, natural ventilation, subtropical, thermal comfort, mobility, electrical system, energy security
ISBN: 978-85-65823-05-0
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Sustainable Resources
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Fundacao De Desenvolvimento Da Unicamp
Deposited On: 16 Oct 2012 17:05
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2013 10:00

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