03/21/2011 09:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Safer, Smarter, and Sustainable: Designing Against Natural Disasters

How should we build? Where should we build?

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan are leading many of us to ask, or re-ask, those questions.

People and governments tend to react to the last disaster -- or, for that matter, the last war or the last election -- when what we need to do is plan for the next one. How do we think ahead?

The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is focusing attention on proven and emerging tools and strategies with an upcoming exhibition Designing for Disaster. Disaster mitigation is, of course, an evolving science. The National Building Museum will showcase innovative research, cutting-edge materials and technologies, and new thinking about how to work with natural systems and the environment. Designing for Disaster will present a range of viable responses that are functional, pragmatic, sustainable, and also beautiful.

There are better ways we could assess environmental risks and create policies, plans, and designs to yield safer, more disaster-resilient communities. We need this information because natural disasters can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. Over the past decade, the financial toll in the United States alone has exceeded $100 billion, and the loss of life and emotional toll is immeasurable. No region of the country is immune -- 81 events in 38 states were declared natural disasters in the U.S. in 2010.

Learn more about Designing for Disaster here.