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Professor at UMaine to research climate resilience of manufactured homes

Research Associate Professor Sean Birkel will collaborate with other researchers to understand any pitfalls and concerns of residents.

ORONO, Maine — For 50 years, researchers at the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute have had their finger on the pulse of Maine's changing environment, and what that might mean for its residents. 

To learn more about if manufactured homes, also known as mobile homes, will hold up in Maine's future climate, UMaine Research Assistant Professor Sean Birkel will soon team up with collaborators from the University of Vermont and University of New Hampshire for a one-year study on the climate resilience of manufactured homes. 

The study is made possible thanks to a $79,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The whole basin, and also [the] Gulf of Maine, last year and this year, are the two warmest years on record," Birkel said. "How do we best prepare and adapt? Implement measures to protect civil infrastructure?"

The study picks up from where researchers in Vermont left off in 2011 when analyzing the impacts Hurricane Irene had on mobile homes.

"It was found that manufactured home communities were disproportionately impacted by the hurricane compared to other structures," Birkel said. 

The task force with the newly funded study will interview residents of mobile home communities to understand current pitfalls and concerns, and translate answers into a database and geographic information system. 

Assisting on the database is Bowdoin College Professor Eileen Johnson, who said the end goal is to create a resource for residents if extreme weather strikes. 

"Probably the best way to think about it is we're initially developing a map to answer this question, and beyond that, there will probably be other parts of the database that can be helpful in other ways," Johnson said. 

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