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Building back bigger in hurricane strike zones


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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Fig. 1: Study locations in hurricane strike zones around the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
Fig. 2: Evidence of building back bigger in hurricane strike zones.

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Data availability

Study data are available through Figshare ( 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.

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Authors and Affiliations



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.

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Correspondence to Eli D. Lazarus.

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Supplementary Information

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

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Lazarus, E.D., Limber, P.W., Goldstein, E.B. et al. Building back bigger in hurricane strike zones. Nat Sustain 1, 759–762 (2018).

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