Through a collaborative effort for the benefit of the community, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has joined the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico with the municipality of Loíza to begin the initial phase of building a new Emergency Operations Center.
The academic institution will donate the plans for the design of the structure located in the Santiago neighborhood, the agency said.
The project will create some 60 indirect jobs during an emergency and includes the rehabilitation of the Carlos Escobar López School. The new Emergency Operations Center will also include a shelter and a police station. Since it is one of the least flooded areas in the municipality, this makes it ideal for sheltering locals in an emergency.
“FEMA’s assistance goes beyond dollars and cents. We are facilitators between municipalities and organizations that want to serve our communities. We remain on a path toward the island’s recovery, aware of this great opportunity that will resonate for generations,” said the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alex Amparo.
The Polytechnic University will provide the conceptual design of the project and the drawings, which include the necessary 3D elevations, sections and representations that complete the municipality’s vision.
The interdisciplinary design will focus on long-term recovery and will integrate aspects such as planning, architecture, engineering and landscaping, FEMA said.
Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario said this project represents an opportunity to provide support in a holistic manner during a crisis, since it will offer both health and therapeutic services.
“I am grateful to FEMA, who shared our vision and have been a part of this great place of refuge for our people and for the bedridden who may need shelter,” Nazario said. “Our vision for the school is for it to be a totally sustainable, resilient area where we can offer survivors a dignified life during an emergency.”
Polytechnic University students worked on the project for three months under the direction of architect and professor Doel Fresse.
The modern design, which they called “Connection,” includes a shelter for about 360 people and uses alternative energy and water systems in case of emergency, such as photovoltaic panels and cisterns. It features sections that disperse sunlight as well as balconies, and the use of natural light and cross ventilation.
The new Emergency Operations Center will include accommodations for 21 people who are bedridden and a parking lot, as well as space for municipal offices, municipal and state emergency management, the Demographic Registry, Driver’s Services Center (CESCO, in Spanish) and the Family Department, among others.
A community dining hall that serves 450 individuals, hydroponic and aquaponic planting systems to generate crops to be consumed in the dining hall and a museum of the history of Loíza complete the students’ proposal.
“This collaboration with the municipality of Loíza for the development of its Emergency Operations Center is another example of how we at the Polytechnic University work on real projects while learning theory,” Polytechnic University President Ernesto Vázquez-Barquet said.
“In addition, we make important contributions that transform our communities in a positive way, something that we emphasize in the education that our students receive,” he said.