Despite decades of regulatory efforts in the United States to decrease vulnerability in developed coastal zones, exposure of residential assets to hurricane damage is increasing — even in places where hurricanes have struck before. Comparing plan-view footprints of individual residential buildings before and long after major hurricane strikes, we find a systematic pattern of ‘building back bigger’ among renovated and new properties.

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Data availability

Study data are available through Figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7108763). Coordinates for the start and end points of the sampled areas are shown in Supplementary Table 4.

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This work was supported in part by the Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (to E.D.L. and R.D.), and by the UK NERC BLUEcoast project (to E.D.L.; NE/N015665/2). We thank R. C. Ballinger and P. Barnard.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Author information


  1. Environmental Dynamics Laboratory, School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

    • Eli D. Lazarus
    •  & Scott B. Armstrong
  2. Department of Marine Science, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC, USA

    • Patrick W. Limber
  3. Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, United States Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, CA, USA

    • Patrick W. Limber
  4. Department of Geological Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

    • Evan B. Goldstein
  5. School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • Rosie Dodd


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PWL conceived the idea; all authors contributed to data collection; E.D.L., P.W.L., E.B.G., and R.D. conducted the analysis; E.D.L., E.B.G., and P.W.L. wrote the manuscript, with contributions from R.D. and S.B.A.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eli D. Lazarus.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Reference 1, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Tables 1–4

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