This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., on Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., on Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

Credit: Steve Gooch


While the scale of the damage done by the massive tornado that struck Moore, Okla., yesterday remains uncertain, architects are preparing now to offer help when called on.

First responders are still working to locate and assist injured and displaced Moore residents. The tornado whipped through homes and infrastructure on Monday evening, leveling the Oklahoma City suburb.

The AIA issued a statement on the disaster.

"On behalf of the AIA, and the AIA’s national Disaster Assistance Committee, I want to extend our concern, thoughts and prayers to people affected by the devastating storm," said AIA president Mickey Jacob, FAIA. "As experienced disaster responders, the AIA has already reached out to our affected AIA components to offer any support we can as our members assist clients and communities in evaluating the damage and moving forward with recovery."

As prior disaster-recovery experience shows, coordinating recovery and rebuilding efforts is the first task at hand for architects.

"AIA is organizing and will step in when invited by FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]," said Melissa Hunt, executive director for AIA Central Oklahoma, in a recorded message.

Architects trained as evaluators may play a role in the more immediate recovery effort, by identifying and isolating structures damaged by the storm. The AIA's Disaster Resources website notes that even this process can take time: Building evaluators were only deployed 10 days following the 2011 tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"Our experts passionately advocate for and educate other architects to evaluate damage to structures affected by such natural events, so that we may keep people safely away from further harm and return them to their homes as quickly as possible," Jacob said. "More than 1,000 AIA members have received specific training to perform this work. And our AIA Oklahoma component has more than 20 trained evaluators from a session we ran last October."

Rebuilding in Joplin, Mo., in the wake of a category 5 tornado in 2011.

Rebuilding in Joplin, Mo., in the wake of a category 5 tornado in 2011.

Credit: Mike Gullett


The tornado struck Moore two days short of the two-year anniversary of the category 5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo. The 2011 twister claimed 161 lives and damaged 7,600 homes, more than half of them catastrophically. The AIA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance Task Force worked alongside state and local AIA chapters to coordinate architects' immediate rebuilding efforts. Students and faculty from Drury University's Hammons School of Architecture pitched in. Bob Berkebile, FAIA, founder of BNIM in Kansas City, Mo., says that the rebuilding effort continues.

“For the moment, though, it is time for search and rescue." Jacob said. "And we hope and pray those efforts are successful."