For four days in late August 2017, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey dropped between 40 and 51 inches of rain on the Houston area, causing catastrophic flooding. Tens of thousands of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed, and dozens of people have lost their lives.
To those paying attention to real-estate development issues in Houston, the latest flooding, while unprecedented in scope, has followed a predictable pattern. Warning bells were rung in December 2016 by Texas Tribune reporters Neena Satija and Kiah Collier, authors of a prescient article titled “Boomtown, Flood Town.” When Satija and Collier interviewed Sam Brody, a Texas A&M University researcher, Brody told them, “More people die here than anywhere else from floods.” Satija and Coller reported, “Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, designers and builders are engaged in a soul-searching exercise. The construction community is asking a variety of questions about residential development in flood-prone regions and the wisdom of using government funds to rebuild homes in flooded areas.
I decided to pose some of these questions to Armando Cobo, a residential designer who lives and works in Texas.
Q. How many years have you been working in Texas?
Armando Cobo: I moved here 8 years ago. I design houses, and I help the builders manage or oversee the construction up until the framing inspection. Everything that we do is at the zero-energy level. I want to make sure that everything is done right, so I work with engineers, truss…