November 08, 2012
David Webb

First Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference a Success

The Center for Sustainability plans to post materials from the inaugural conference on its website to serve communities recovering from natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.

Diana Carlin, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Sustainability speaks to confrence attendees.
Diana Carlin, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Sustainability speaks to confrence attendees during the the Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference. Submitted photo

For the Center for Sustainability, Hurricane Sandy provided a well-timed, if sobering, teachable moment. During a keynote address to more than 100 attendees of the Center's 2012 Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference, Mike Smith, senior vice president of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, presented satellite images of real-time updates of the storm's destruction. It was an ironic — and for some, personal — reminder of the importance and timeliness of the conference theme.

"Many of our speakers and guests were unable to attend because of the storm," said David Webb, program manager at the Center. "Others were stuck in St. Louis unable to get home because parts of the east coast were literally under water."

Approximately 200 students, government officials and industry professionals attended the Disaster Recovery Conference Oct. 29-30, presented by the Center for Sustainability, Greensburg GreenTown and GreenTown Joplin.

The conference sought to help cities stricken by natural disasters rebuild strong, livable communities by identifying ways to efficiently and effectively weave elements of sustainability into the disaster recovery process, while increasing collaboration among all parties working toward this goal.

"The conference was a huge success, particularly for an inaugural effort," Webb said. "We had more than 200 participants, including 40 speakers, and a diverse range of topics spanning building and construction, policy and government, the socio-cultural and psychological components of recovery, and personal experiences related to sustainable disaster planning, recovery and rebuilding."

Conference speakers included Michael Estes, vice president of BTI Corporation; Rob Threlkeld, manager of Renewable Energy at General Motors; and Eric Cesal, former program manager for Architecture for Humanity in Haiti.

While Sandy and the conference have passed, Webb stated he hopes that the ideas discussed and materials presented will continue to serve as resources for communities and their stakeholders. Presentations, audio, video, transcriptions of breakout sessions, and other resources will be available at the Center's website over the coming weeks, as well as a sustainable disaster recovery handbook that will be shared with participating communities, made available online and sent to future communities affected by natural disasters.

"The conference website will serve as an ongoing resource for sustainable disaster recovery — a place where the conference can live on beyond the physical walls of the venue," Webb said.

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