Immediately after a natural disaster strikes, stabilization is the priority, followed by short-term recovery then long-term recovery. To be proactive, architects must step out of their traditional roles to best serve the client and community.

In June 2008, disaster struck Cedar Rapids, Iowa when the Cedar River overflowed its banks and crested with 11 feet of water in the heart of the city. The Cedar Rapids Community School District suffered its share of losses, which included their administration building, buildings and grounds building, carpenter and paint shop building, purchasing and warehouse buildings. The District addressed its immediate need of getting back to day-to-day operations by establishing temporary offices and facilities.

Attention now turned to short-term recovery including assessment of damage to contents and facilities, developing short-term facilities to house flood affected departments, and assessing the loss and impact on the community the District serves.

Recovery planning involved exploring many options. One such option was looking at sharing facilities with other governmental agencies. Shive-Hattery participated in discussions with County and City departments, exploring similarities is business operations and functions.

Public opinion on recovery efforts was sought through several public open houses. Participation in preparing the public for decision making required Shive-Hattery to assist with a global assessment of short, intermediate and long-term planning.

With temporary facilities being used and extensive public forums held to determine direction, 17 months passed before the Board of Education voted to build a new 169,000-square-foot Educational and Leadership Support (ELS) Center on 20 acres of district land.

The 20-acres of district land was located in a floodplain and it was critical to design a building that could withstand a natural disaster. What if another natural disaster struck? Would the building hold? Architects were proactive with their design to address concerns of potential damage caused by a future natural disaster.

The facility consists of four buildings separated by fire barriers combined under one roof. Each area has a unique function: office; transportation (bus storage and maintenance), building repair shops (maintenance, carpentry, paint), printing and graphics, and purchasing and warehousing.

The ELS Center was designed to be a 100-year facility and its buildings and campus have strategies that make them sustainable and built to last. These strategies include:

• Concrete roads was built to Iowa DOT roadway standards to increase longevity.

• The use of mechanical mezzanines, eliminating equipment on the roof and creating penetrations in the roof membrane. This adds life to the equipment by keeping equipment out of the elements.

• Geothermal heating system and other energy saving strategies that will reduce energy consumption by 50 percent.

• The design of the building provides design flexibility with its post and beam construction which allows for cost efficient reconfiguration in the future. Electrical and mechanical equipment are also located on the same floor that they serve.

• Building envelope and HVAC commissioning were incorporated into the project and included startup verification checks, functional performance testing, training, development of a systems manual and a final report.

• A dedicated 500-person, high wind event safe room with a stocked supply room, passive ventilation, lighting with battery back-up ballasts, ADA compliant restrooms and three LED TVs for monitoring storm updates.

• Security/access control with a microprocessor based system that controls electronic locks for access and door holders for lock down events. Access is programmed to allow restricted access to each department of the campus, controlled by user access rights and by time of day. The lockdown function can be initiated by use of remote "panic" switches and is linked to the mass communication function of the Fire Safety system to alert occupants by flashing amber strobes.

After design was complete and while construction was underway, Shive-Hattery continued its efforts to help the client to full-recovery. The firm led a series of workshops to identify the necessary steps for transitioning personnel and operations from the temporary facilities to the new one. A critical path transition plan was developed which identified eight month of preparation, three months of moving and four months of post occupancy activities. The detailed planning enabled the employees to gather their personal items early in the morning, go to the new facility late morning, attend orientation and begin working after lunch. The transition was a complete success.

Recovery efforts, of course, are not linear. Activities overlap, design of construction was concurrent with co-location discussions, public input processes occurred during a facility needs assessment, new construction with transition planning. All of these efforts were led and coordinated by Shive-Hattery to ensure the client would successfully recover from one of its worst natural disasters.

The $44.5 million project was funded with approximately $12.8 million from FEMA and State Public Assistance funding for flood-related damages and the balance was School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) tax backed bonds.