SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As Puerto Rico explores how to rebuild after back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes, the people who will collaborate on those solutions were asked to envision innovative construction methods that will have a real and lasting impact.
"True innovation can change and transform the course of Puerto Rico," said Glorimar Ripoll, chief innovation officer for the government of Puerto Rico. "We are not just rebuilding bridges, buildings, roads and houses. We’re also, and most importantly, rebuilding a society."
Ripoll addressed applicants for FEMA’s Public Assistance program who gathered Friday along with representatives of federal agencies and local and national associations to share strategies for resilient recovery.
The symposium, which drew about 150 participants to the Puerto Rico Convention Center, was hosted by the government of Puerto Rico, FEMA’s Public Buildings Sector and the University of Puerto Rico, School of Architecture.
The main goal of the Public Buildings Sector is to build and manage resilient and sustainable facilities to house essential public service functions. The FEMA team working with the island’s Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, also known as COR3, hopes to identify high-risk facilities and apply mitigation techniques wherever possible.
The collective vision is also to design public buildings that showcase new trends and address the need for the best quality services for Puerto Rico’s next generations.
"We have a significant amount of federal funds that will be available for the reconstruction and recovery," said Omar Marrero, the governor’s authorized representative and executive director of
COR3. "We want to make sure that we take the moonshot attitude and we develop the best solutions across sectors."
That means designing buildings that optimize energy performance and creating universal designs that include people with disabilities.
"We’re looking for solutions to the big impacts that we had from Irma and María," said Justo "Tito" Hernández, deputy federal coordinating officer and FEMA’s second-in-command in Puerto Rico.
"We’re deciding what we can do to help the economy rebound so we can have services for the community, so we can have a stronger Puerto Rico," Hernández said.
To accomplish that goal takes collaboration.
"True collaboration is the key to our success," Ripoll said. "For this, we must leave the traditions, the fears, the excuses and the personal agendas on the side."
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362) 711/VRS - Video Relay Service). Multilingual operators are available. (Press 2 for Spanish). TTY call 800-462-7585.